The origins of persistent pain in humans is comprised of a complex, twisted and multi factorial journey that culminates in a "cancer of the soul". Recent advances in the basic science underpinning our mechanistic understanding of persistent pain have embraced "the other brain" as an integrator of multiple life stimuli. This complex integration of life experiences, which are translated into immune-like signals cause the immune cells of the brain and spinal cord to adapt and change the environment driving persistent pain.
Our appreciation for this brain-immune signalling and its contributions to the health and disease of the brain has its origins in the study of the illness response, and perhaps pave the way to answering the critical unanswered medical question “How do you know you are sick?". It is now apparent that these specialised brain-immune processes are engaged in a range of other disparate responses, including the rewarding properties of drugs of abuse. This presentation will summarise recent studies in this field and equip the attendees with further insights of the complexity and power that viewing the brain as an immune organ brings to understanding persistent pain and drug responses.
Professor Hutchinson is the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) and a Professor within the School of Medicine at the University of Adelaide. Professor Hutchinson’s research explores the “other brain” or the other 90% of cells in the brain and spinal cord. These immune-like cells are termed glia. Mark’s research has implicated the brain immune-like cells in the action of drugs of dependence and the negative side effects of pain treatments. He has pioneered research which has led to the discovery of novel drug activity at innate immune receptors. His work has enabled the translation of compounds at the lab bench to clinical agents used at the bedside.
He has now added Director of the CNBP to his roles. The CNBP is an ARC Centre of Excellence with $38M of funding committed for 7 years, headquartered at The University of Adelaide, with nodes at Macquarie University, Sydney and the RMIT, Melbourne. We are partnered with universities and companies in Europe, the US and China, as well as other Australian institutions. Prof Hutchinson’s work with the CNBP is to "Discover new approaches to measure nano-scale dynamic phenomena in living systems” and allow the first minimally invasive realtime visualisations of the “other brain”.