Assistant Professor Valeria Vásquez Receives $120,000 Grant for Chronic Pain Research

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Dr. Valeria Vasquez C
Valeria Vásquez, PhD, is researching the causes of chronic pain.

Valeria Vásquez, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Physiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $120,000 from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation to study the causes of chronic pain. She will be working in collaboration with Avi Priel, PhD, a member of the faculty of medicine in the School of Pharmacy – Institute for Drug Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Chronic or persistent pain is a major burden on individuals, health care systems and social services, and carries high indirect costs. It is a debilitating condition that decreases the quality of life of affected individuals, and is the most common reason for seeking medical help. There is a high demand for new or complementary treatments to alleviate pain originating from different sources, such as rheumatoid arthritis, aging, tissue injury or cancer.

The detection of pain occurs when proteins are triggered by neurons. Dr. Vásquez and her research team are most interested in the role of the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 channel (TRPV1), as it relates to chronic pain. Also known as the chili pepper or heat receptor, TRPV1 causes a painful, burning sensation in humans upon activation, a symptom commonly associated with chronic pain.

Despite TRPV1’s role in physiological and pathophysiological pain, the cellular and molecular mechanisms of continued pain responses are not well understood.

“We are testing substances using roundworms to discover treatment options for chronic pain,” Dr. Vasquez said.

The United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation encourages scientific relationships and collaborations between the United States and Israel through the funding of research in various areas. For more information, visit www.bsf.org.il.