Skip to main content

New funding scheme: £4M available for proposals to establish infrastructure needed to accelerate use of non-animal methods. Apply now.

NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science
PhD Studentship

An in vitro model for pain and neurogenic inflammation in the oro-facial region and upper airways

A pink eppendorf rack

At a glance

Award date
October 2011 - September 2014
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Dr Fionnuala Lundy
Queen's University Belfast


  • Replacement

Application abstract

Advances in our understanding of bi-directional communication between the nervous system and the immune system acknowledges that sensory nerves contribute to the local inflammatory response (neurogenic inflammation) and that inflammatory cytokines contribute to the sensitisation of sensory nerves.

As the most densely innervated area of the body, the oro-facial region represents an excellent model for investigating cross-talk between the nervous system and immune system. Research on neurogenic pain and inflammation has conventionally focused on animal models in which nerves are intentionally damaged. However, whether such models reliably predict the human response is questionable.

An alternative ex vivo human model using redundant human tissue (dental pulp from extracted human teeth) has the advantage of species specificity but is limited by the fact that only peripheral nerve terminals are present, negating its use in the study of bi-directional communication.

We propose to exploit the fact that dental pulp tissue is a rich source of stem cells from which peripheral neurones (with cell bodies), can be differentiated. We propose to functionally characterise peripheral neurones differentiated from dental pulp stem cells as a model system for studying nociception and neurogenic inflammation. This in vitro model will not only allow replacement of animal models, but concomitantly offers important advantages over existing ex vivo models for the study of peripheral nerve injury.



  1. Clarke R et al. (2017). TRPA1 activation in a human sensory neuronal model: relevance to cough hypersensitivity. European Respiratory Journal 50:1700995. doi: 10.1183/13993003.00995-2017