Dr. Arkady Khoutorsky, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesia and Principal Investigator at the Alan Edwards Center for Research on Pain, was one of seven 2017 Rita Allen Foundation Scholars announced on June 5. He was among two of the scholars selected for the Rita Allen Foundation Award in Pain in partnership with the American Pain Society for his proposal, “Extracellular matrix-mediated spinal cord plasticity in neuropathic pain.” Granted to research proposals that demonstrate the greatest merit, and display extraordinary promise to make advances in the field of pain, the prize awards recipients $50,000 annually, for a period of up to three years.
This marks the ninth year of the collaborative award with the American Pain Society, which supports early-career researchers who aim to understand and alleviate pain. Dr. Khoutorsky is the second McGill recipient of the award.
His research program aims to understand molecular and cellular mechanisms of chronic pain, which develops because of damaged, dysfunctional or injured nerves fibres. The damaged nerve fibres send incorrect sensory signals to the spinal cord, which contributes to the development of neuropathic pain. The treatments currently available to ease neuropathic pain have limited effectiveness, with only 30-40 per cent of patients reporting satisfactory pain relief following treatment. Given the need for improved therapeutic methods, the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neuropathic pain are the subjects of exhaustive research today.
Dr. Khoutorsky’s recent findings support a hypothesis that nerve injury-induced remodelling of the extracellular matrix (ECM) – a collection of extracellular molecules secreted by cells that provides structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells – in the spinal cord might contribute to the increased transmission of the pain signal.
The characterization of the ECM remodelling following nerve injury and the investigation of the mechanisms by which the ECM reorganization promotes hypersensitivity might provide important information on neuropathic pain. Dr. Khoutorsky’s research program has the potential to provide important insights into the pathophysiology of neuropathic pain and push the development of innovative therapeutic treatments to improve the quality of life for those living with neuropathic pain.
Since 1976, the Rita Allen Foundation has invested in more than 150 biomedical scientists at the early stages of their careers, enabling them to pursue research directions with above-average risk and promise. Scholars have gone on to make fundamental contributions to their fields of study, and have won recognition including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the National Medal of Science, the Wolf Prize in Medicine, the Lasker~Koshland Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science, and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.
The American Pain Society is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians, and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering.