Obesity-Driven Chronic Pain

Understanding the contribution of endocannabinoid system dysregulation in pain processing in obese adolescents

Full Project Name:Obesity-driven Dysregulation of the Endocannabinoid System in Chronic PainPrincipal Investigator:Keri Hainsworth, PhD, AnesthesiologyCo-Investigator:Cecilia Hillard, PhD, Pharmacology and Toxicology; Steven J. Weisman, MD, AnesthesiologyAward Amount:$200,000
Award Date
January2018
Project Duration:24 months

Project Description Narrative:


Obesity is a global health concern, with over 2.1 billion people currently overweight or obese. In Wisconsin, 73% of adults and 23% of children age 2 to 17 years are overweight or obese. On average, 90% of obese adolescents will remain obese into their 30s.

Obesity-related health concerns affecting Wisconsin residents include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, mood disorders and obesity-related cancer. It is estimated that 40% of obese individuals also have chronic pain. Endocannabinoid signaling is an endogenous analgesic system known to be dysregulated in obesity.

Through this award, the research team aims to understand the contribution of endocannabinoid system dysregulation in pain processing in obese adolescents, with the long-term aim to develop novel treatments for pain that may lead to the avoidance of costly outcomes associated with obesity and co-morbid chronic pain later in life.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Achieved 98% study participant completion during the award period

• Findings showed that holding a three-minute yoga pose can produce an analgesic effect in obese females and can increase levels of an important component of the pain system in the body (2AG)

• In addition to traditional academic dissemination, findings were shared with non-traditional audiences to reach pain practicioners from a variety of backgrounds and via social media channels to reach parents, constituents of Children's Wisconsin, and the community in general

• Developed strong relationships with staff at a Children's Wisconsin affiliate clinic, which will enhance future study recruitment efforts

• Through this project, the multidisciplinary research team developed new skills in translational research that will support their partnership as they advance toward planned future studies

• Leveraged additional AHW funding to ehance this project's impact through a student research experience

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