The aim of our research is to find new treatment strategies for pain.

The main current projects concentrate on studying mechanisms of and new treatments for chronic neuropathic pain conditions. Another important focus of the research group is the pharmacology of opioid tolerance and hyperalgesia, particularly the roles of the glia and sex differences using behavioural studies and transcriptomics.

Neuropathic pain

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage”.

Approximately 8 % of the general population suffers from neuropathic pain. The treatment of chronic neuropathic pain is challenging and the response to available treatments is modest and adverse effects are common. Our group uses different pre-clinical models of pain, behavioural and analytical methods to study mechanisms of and new treatments to chronic neuropathic pain.

Glial cells may modulate neurotransmission especially in neuropathic pain and the aim of our group is to study the role of glial cells in the modulation of pain. Currently, we also focus on sex differences in animal models of chronic pain.

Main researchers: Fredrik Ahlström, Pekka Rauhala, Eija Kalso

Opioid tolerance and hyperalgesia

Opioid analgesics can relieve neuropathic pain, but they may cause adverse effects such as tolerance and opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH), in addition to dependence. Our group uses different behavioural and analytical methods to study mechanisms of opioid tolerance and OIH and approaches to reverse it or to prevent its development.

Glial cells not only modulate neurotransmission in neuropathic pain. Recent evidence suggests that in addition to the known neuronal mechanisms of opioid tolerance glial cells could contribute to the development of opioid tolerance or OIH. Therefore, our group studies new strategies to enhance the efficacy of current drugs such as morphine by modulating glial cell function. Our group also studiessex differences in opioid tolerance or OIH.

Main researchers: Fredrik Ahlström, Pekka Rauhala, Eija Kalso

Glymphatic system in drug delivery

The depth of sleep can impact brain’s ability to efficiently wash away waste and toxic proteins through glymphatic system. Group studies also the role of glymphatic system in drug delivery to central nervous system.

Main researchers: Tuomas Lilius, Hanna Viisanen-Kuopila, Pekka Rauhala, Eija Kalso

Dexmedetomidine enhances glymphatic brain delivery of intrathecally administered drugs