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Majumdar Receives NIH Neuropathic Pain Relief Grant

Published on 24 September 2020

Susruta Majumdar, Ph.D., associate professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, recently received a $100,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop compounds to treat neuropathic pain.

“Neuropathic pain is challenging to treat, and therapies for treating this kind of pain are limited, compared to acute pain,” Majumdar explained. “If you break a bone, you experience a specific type of pain that we can treat with over-the-counter medicines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or prescription analgesics. But neuropathic pain, which includes sensations like tingling or numbness due to nerve damage, is different. Because our standard pain treatments are ineffective for these sensations, patients are usually prescribed antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to alleviate their suffering. We’re working on a direct, non-addictive treatment by targeting the peripheral nervous system by inhibiting the hormone Angiotensin II, which interacts with the parts of the body that experience neuropathic pain, thus alleviating pain with fewer side effects associated with medications that target the central nervous system.”

The research digresses from studying the compounds found in the plant kratom, which has long been a focus of Majumdar’s work. Through his previous research, Majumdar has studied kratom’s potential to create safer alternatives to the use of opioid pain medications. But his work on this project is taking him in a new direction.

“This work is different because I’m not dealing with opioids anymore,” Majumdar explained. “Both the target hormone Angiotensin II and neuropathic pain are new avenues of research for me.”

Majumdar is collaborating on the study with researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“My postdoctoral fellow Dr. Balazs Varga and I will be working with structural biologists and computational chemists at USC to examine and create compounds that could be used to treat this type of pain,” Majumdar stated. “Once we create these compounds, the scientists at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will test their effectiveness. Cancer patients often suffer from neuropathic pain, so MD Anderson is interested in this study as a way to help their patients.”

The grant covers the first year of research with a possible four-year renewal if the project’s milestones are being met on time.

“The program’s officers check in on us regularly to talk about our research and give us feedback on our progress,” Majumdar explained. “Additionally, the NIH has access to enormous amounts of data and resources that they are sharing with us to help us meet our goals. It’s a true collaboration between the researchers and the program’s officers.”

Majumdar’s latest venture is one of many cutting-edge research projects being conducted in the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, which was formed to study basic translational and clinical research to improve the treatment of pain.   

As the No. 1 private pharmacy school in the nation for NIH grants, University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis is rapidly gaining a reputation for groundbreaking research and innovation across campus. Majumdar’s work further demonstrates the University’s commitment to being a transformational leader in health care education and research.

To learn more about the exciting projects happening at the University, visit uhsp.edu/research. For more information about the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, visit clinicalpharmstl.org.

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