Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Examining sex differences in neuropathic pain behaviours in the EAE model

Principal Investigator: Dr. Bradley Kerr

Affiliation: University of Alberta

Funding: $343,494

Keywords: Pain, cytokines, sex differences, oxidative stress, blood-brain barrier

Summary:

  • Chronic pain has a major effect on the quality of life of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Chronic pain is reported to a much higher degree and rate in females with MS than men.
  • Why females are impacted by chronic pain in MS more than men is still unknown.
  • The research team will:
    • Assess if pain sensitivity can be modulated by exercise and if different responses are seen in female versus male mice.
    • Determine if oxidative stress, a process involved in neurodegeneration or loss of nerve cells, is contributing to pain sensitives in MS in women and men.

Project Description:

Pain is a major component of MS; it is estimated that over 50% of people living with MS experience chronic, neuropathic pain. Dr. Bradley Kerr’s previous MS Society-funded research determined differences in pain between sexes in mice with MS-like disease and that differences in pain sensitivity can be impacted by daily exercise. Building on the results of his previously funded research project, Dr. Kerr plans to explore if pain sensitivity can be modulated with a combination of exercise and anti-inflammatory treatments for MS and if different responses are seen in male and female mice with MS-like disease. Furthermore, Dr. Kerr research plans to explore if oxidative stress, a process that causes neurodegeneration in MS, is altered between different sexes and hence is contributing to different pain sensitivities in MS. To date, results from the Dr. Kerr’s lab suggest that an exercise therapy that is effective in female mice to decrease pain in MS has no significant effect on pain in male mice. The team is now beginning to examine how specific groups of cells are affected by exercise between male and female mice. Identifying sex specific factors that lead to pain will be useful for tailoring therapies to maximize their benefits instead of a ‘one size fits all’ approach that to date has been very ineffective at treating chronic neuropathic pain.

Potential Impact: Generate important insights into the mechanisms underlying pain in women and men with MS, which will pave the way for more effective therapies.

Project Status: In progress