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Pain

Pain Research

At a glance

2020 Emerging Leaders Prize – 1st place – Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi

Lead researcher

Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi

Institution

University College London

Status

Live

Amount awarded

£100,000

Last updated

17/12/20

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This project will allow me to start a new line of models of preterm pain in order to understand the developmental biology underpinning my observations in humans.
Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi
Fabrizi Portrait 2020

Many infants need invasive neonatal care at birth, either because they have been born prematurely or because they are unwell. Pain is inevitable, the burden is immense, and the consequences can last for many years.

Dr Fabrizi’s work aims to understand how the neonatal brain processes pain, and the longer-term impact of pain. Using advanced brain imaging techniques, he has shown that the way the preterm brain processes pain dramatically changes with age and is different from the way that we process it as adults. This means that infants may not feel pain in the same way as adults, and that we cannot use common behaviours, like crying, to predict pain intensity.

Discoveries made by Dr Fabrizi, a Principal Research Fellow at UCL, have paved the way for a ‘brain-led’ approach to studying pain in babies, and opened new avenues of research to his own trainees and other groups in the UK and around the world.

Using mice as an experimental model, Dr Fabrizi will study early development of networks in the brain that are responsible for processing pain, which is important for understanding when the neuronal architecture that allows babies to feel pain is fully developed. It is not possible to study this in humans, and insights from Dr Fabrizi’s research in animals could have vast clinical benefits – including the development of targeted treatments aimed at alleviating pain, especially in premature babies.

On being awarded first place, Dr Fabrizi said:

“When the Foundation called me, to tell me I’d won first prize, I almost fell off my chair! This award is a true turning point in my career. I had hit a wall in the interpretation of brain imaging of human preterm neonatal pain, as we had concurrent results that did not clearly fit together. This project will allow me to start a new line of models of preterm pain in order to understand the developmental biology underpinning my observations in humans.”

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