One of only 24 undergraduates nationwide to receive research fellow funding from the American Physiological Society (APS), Duquesne University’s Jarred Stratton will be examining a type of pain that most people don’t discuss.
Stratton will spend the summer in the lab of Dr. Ben Kolber, assistant professor of biological sciences and a member of Duquesne’s Chronic Pain Research Consortium, researching painful bladder syndrome (PBS). An ailment that people—most often, women—have but suffer with silently, PBS causes frequent bathroom trips coupled with chronic pain and may be linked to stress, depression, autoimmune disease.
Although about 1.3 million people cope with this condition, whose impacts range from alterations in sleeping habits to loss of productivity and puts a damper on friendships, the medical community currently throws its hands in the air when asked how to deal with the problem.
“Traditionally, pain associated with viscera is poorly treated,” said Kolber, who received his doctorate in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis and focuses on physical and psychiatric mechanisms of pain. “Few causes are well described and the treatment is virtually non-existent.”
No medical cures are available and a drug approved for treatment works only in about 30 percent of the cases and then, perhaps only after a month of medication three times a day. Bladder baths and distension of the bladder are other options, as well as surgery.
Stratton will model a pain pathway that may help to track how PBS is modulated by both the brain and the bladder. The amygdala— an almond-sized area in the brain linked to regulating emotions and stress reactions—also may be involved in the connection between the bladder and the brain, said Kolber, an APS research fellow 10 years ago.
The fellowship funding will allow Stratton to work toward characterizing the types of cells involved with recognizing pain in the brain.
A rising junior from Reading, Pa., Stratton is the son of Yvonne Stratton and Dan Paegal of Reading and a graduate of Holy Name High School (now Berks Catholic). One of two APS fellows from Pennsylvania, Stratton was selected based upon academic merit, the quality of the experience and the availability of an established faculty mentor.
Stratton will present his research at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting in Boston, which will draw nearly 14,000 scientists. He will have opportunities to network with other undergraduates interested in biomedical research and to explore various career options.