Douglas K. Anderson, PhD, director of research for the Facial Pain Research Foundation and eminent scholar, professor and chair emeritus for the UF College of Medicine department of neuroscience, said the findings of the foundation’s five projects can translate to other research areas.
“If we can find the genes and pathways causing this problem and find a way to deliver a pain reducer or inhibitor, it will have an impact on how we look at any pain associated with nerves,” Anderson said.
Pasternak became affected by TN in 1990. His dentist recommended a root canal, but the pain persisted. Months passed before he was diagnosed with TN. He was prescribed anti-seizure medication, which made him groggy and caused some memory loss. He underwent microvascular surgery and has been pain-free for more than 20 years. His struggles are what inspired him to create the foundation in 2011.
“I don’t know six people with TN who’ve gone 20 years without the pain coming back,” he said. In addition to anti-seizure medication, current treatments for TN include procedures like microvascular decompression surgery, which separates blood vessels from nerves, leaving a Teflon pillow between them. The surgery leads to pain relief for some, but not all.
“These medicines and risky surgeries aren’t good enough,” Pasternak said. “They work for some and not for others. We’re after a cure.”
For more information on The Facial Pain Research Foundation, visit http://facingfacialpain.org.