The Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP) brings together the United Kingdom’s expertise, infrastructure and stakeholders in pain research to address areas of critical need. Our Pain Research focuses on what causes chronic pain, what can worsen it, and what prevents it from improving. Our mechanistic approach recognises the individuality of pain and what differs or is shared across diagnoses, along the life course, and across society. Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP) brings together researchers investigating diverse themes essential for understanding and reducing the burden of pain. Further information about research by APDP members can be found through the hyperlinks on this page, and on the APDP networking site, including the report of APDP’s 1st Annual Conference that was held in Nottingham, UK, in 2023.
APDP Pain Research focus on causes, symptoms and treatment and our drive to find new ways to support those living with chronic and debilitating clinical conditions.
Bringing together data from multiple sources to answer big questions.
Data are everywhere, and our ability to learn from data increases year by year. Pain data are collected by researchers, commercial organisations, and healthcare providers, such as the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. ALLEVIATE, the APDP Data hub, links and curates datasets from diverse sources to shed new light on chronic pain problems. APDP researchers are interrogating these datasets to advance knowledge of how and why pain reports have increased over time (e.g. during the Covid-19 pandemic). Chronic pain is a bigger problem now than ever, and the APDP’s research is crucial and urgent.
Changes in the nervous system can cause long-lasting pain.
Nerves in our body, spinal cord and brain transmit pain signals when we encounter something that might injure us. When damage has been repaired, we want those nerves to become `quiet’ again. Sometimes nerves signal pain even after the threat of injury has gone away, leading to persistent, chronic pain. APDP (a,b) is investigating which chemicals in the body switch off pain signalling (c,d) and what can drive changes in the nervous system (e, f) that lead to ongoing signalling, even in the absence of injury or disease. We are investigating how injury affects brain function to cause chronic pain. Our research is developing tests for conditions such as fibromyalgia, where severe pain can persist without injury.
Pain is a personal experience that affects and is affected by people around us and by the society we live in.
APDP is transforming understanding of how people experience pain, what it means, how they feel about it, how it affects them, people around them, and society as a whole. The society contributes to but also can help solve the problems of pain. APDP investigates social diversity, including differences between men and women, diverse ethnic groups, and the effects of social deprivation, to help reduce inequalities. We study how pain affects families, friends and the workplace so that we can relieve the broader burden of pain.
Are some people pre-destined to suffer chronic pain?
APDP researchers are unravelling why some people develop chronic pain, whereas others might not. Genetic associations point to specific molecules in pain pathways that can either cause or switch off pain, molecules that might be amenable to new drugs that our research is helping to develop. APDP researchers are building a knowledge base to mitigate the effects of early life experiences (g,h) on subsequent pain. We are uncovering what puts an individual at risk of developing chronic pain so that it will be possible to reduce that risk in conditions as diverse as sciatica and chronic regional pain syndrome. We are developing ways to detect early changes in the nervous system, for example, during chemotherapy for cancer, so that those at risk of chronic pain can be identified and treated.
Why do treatments not work all of the time for everyone?
Pain is a group of diverse experiences with several underlying mechanisms. It affects different people differently and changes with time in any individual. APDP researchers are pushing forward understanding of the nature and causes of this diversity so that individuals can receive treatment at the right time and gain maximum benefit. By bringing together experts (scientists, patients, clinicians) in diverse medical conditions, we are increasing our understanding of what is unique and what is shared. We join together research on neuropathic (i,j,k) (damage or pathology in the nervous system), musculoskeletal (e.g. arthritis, low back pain), and visceral (l,m) (e.g. gynaecological) pain so that findings in one area accelerate new ways of treating others. We are studying how cells such as fibroblasts and immune cells, which play essential roles in maintaining health, can change during diseases such as osteoarthritis or after nerve injury to then cause pain.
Understanding and treating chronic pain using digital technology.
Rapid advances in digital technology present new ways to measure and treat chronic pain. Experts and people with lived experience of pain are working together within APDP to harness the potential of digital technology, using wearables to measure how pain affects activity and sleep and virtual reality tools to maximise the benefit of exercise therapies within the home.