Beth Winkelstein, Ph.D., is a Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. She is Director of the Spine Pain Research Lab.
Despite their high incidence and debilitating effects, chronic pain syndromes remain largely untreatable. Neck pain comprises nearly 30% of all chronic pain syndromes and is equally problematic. However, neck pain currently remains largely unstudied, with only inferential hypotheses for its etiology. Research efforts in the Spine Pain Research Laboratory examine the pathomechanisms of chronic neck pain, by studying the two most common forms of injuries to the cervical spine and using these to determine the cellular/molecular factors that lead to chronic pain for each injury. Research is broadly focused on understanding how precise mechanical loading – mimicking clinically relevant conditions of pain – translates to physiologic processes of persistent neck pain. Spinal neuroimmunologic cascades are prime candidates for causing a chronic pain response, with specific interest on defining the spinal cytokine and glial changes of pain. Investigations have the potential to provide new insight into the mechanism(s) for persistent pain and identify the key regulators in cervical spine-based pain, with the ultimate goal of translating molecular understandings of pain to its clinically effective treatment.
Keywords: cellular/molecular factors that lead to chronic pain; mechanical loading; biomechanics; neuroimmunology; neuroengineering; orthopaedic bioengineering; mechanobiology
Working Group(s): Working Group 2: How do cells adapt to and change their mechanical environment