Skip to main content
Menu Search & Directory

With $5.3 Million from NIH, DOD, Saint Louis University and University of Maryland Pain Researchers Set Their Sights on Migraine Relief

by Carrie Bebermeyer on 01/11/2022
Media Inquiries

Carrie Bebermeyer
Public Relations Director
carrie.bebermeyer@slu.edu
314-977-8015

Reserved for members of the media.

Thanks to $5.3 million from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Saint Louis University pain researcher Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) are in pursuit of a new way to treat migraine pain, a complex and painful disorder that affects over 30 million people in the U.S., including children as young as 5 years old.

The researchers will target two pain receptors in order to ‘switch off’ pain signals in the brain involved in inflammation. 

Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D.
Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D., is professor and chairperson of the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. She is also the director of the Henry and Amelia Nasrallah Center for Neuroscience at SLU.

Adding to researchers’ enthusiasm about this approach is a possible head start on the road to clinical trials: compounds that that target these pain receptors already exist, including one that is approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. As a part of this study, the team will be able to conduct pre-clinical screening, speeding the way to possible clinical trials repurposing these compounds for migraine pain. 

“I’ve been working on chronic neuropathic pain for two decades. Our body of research suggests there is a fundamental mechanistic role for this approach in treating migraine,” said Salvemini, who is professor and chairperson in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. She is also the director of the Henry and Amelia Nasrallah Center for Neuroscience at SLU.

“My colleagues, Simon Akerman, and Marcela Romero Reyes at UMSOD are world experts in migraine.  Our collaboration over the years has led to remarkable findings that can now be pursued with the ultimate goal of translating our discoveries from the bench to the bedside, hopefully impacting the lives of many individuals”

Migraine’s Toll

Ranked as the most prevalent and disabling neurological disorder, migraine affects over 30 million people in the U.S. and over a billion adults globally. Children as young as 5 years old suffer, as well. With up to 50% of patients seeing little benefit from existing treatments, there is a desperate need to find new approaches to migraine pain management. 

“Migraine is a spectacularly complex brain disorder,” Salvemini said. “In addition to severe headache, patients can suffer from a host of other neurological symptoms, including increased sensitivity to light and sounds, nausea and vomiting, disruption to vision, speech, touch and motor control, as well as changes in mood and cognition.”

The Partnership

The $2,944,059 DOD grant and the $2,390,600 NIH R01 grant support the investigation of novel therapeutics developed in Salvemini’s laboratory at Saint Louis University and their application in migraine and orofacial pain research program led by recognized experts in migraine, Simon Akerman, Ph.D., and Marcela Romero Reyes, DDS, Ph.D., in the Department of Neural and Pain Sciences at UMSOD.

Together, they will take a team-based approach to study two completely novel targets in the treatment and prevention of migraine, and migraine-related headache disorders.

“Millions of people suffer daily from migraine and, by pooling our expertise, we hope to offer relief to those who suffer from this debilitating disorder,” said Akerman.

The Science

By combining their expertise, the teams from SLU and UMSOD propose that targeting two receptors, sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 1 (S1PR1) and adenosine A3 receptor (A3AR), will ‘switch off’ pain signals in the brain involved in inflammation. The advantage of this approach is that compounds already are in advanced development for these receptor targets, which should speed their further development. 

In fact, S1PR1 antagonists already have FDA-approval for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Researchers hope that with successful preclinical screening supported by this funding these drugs could be repurposed for clinical trials in migraine. 

About Saint Louis University School of Medicine 

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.

About University of Maryland School of Dentistry

The University of Maryland School of Dentistry, the world’s first dental college, offers superlative educational programs in oral health. As one of six professional schools and an interdisciplinary Graduate School on the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s 71-acre campus, it is part of a thriving academic health center that combines groundbreaking biomedical research and exceptional patient care. The school is Maryland’s predominant provider of comprehensive and emergency oral health services. www.dental.umaryland.edu