Facial Pain Research Foundation supports the study of new therapies at UF COM

Published: February 13th, 2012

Category: Development

By Jessica Jinah Song

A poorly understood facial pain disease strikes its victims with brief but excruciating, lightning-like shocks. A new gift to the University of Florida College of Medicine is going to help researchers remove some of the mystery surrounding this condition, called trigeminal neuralgia.

The Facial Pain Research Foundation, a division of the nonprofit health organization, TNA The Facial Pain Association, presented a $50,000 gift to the UF College of Medicine for research that could lead to new therapies and possibly a cure for trigeminal neuralgia and other facial pain diseases.

The gift will support research by Andrew Ahn, M.D., Ph.D., who is working to develop a “map” that shows what parts of the brain are affected by the disorder. Such a map could lead to better understanding of the disease and ultimately better ways to treat it.

“Pain research at UF spans multiple disciplines and several colleges of this campus,” said Ahn, an assistant professor of neurology, neuroscience, psychiatry and anesthesiology at the UF College of Medicine. “This funding will provide a means to bring the unique expertise and capabilities present at UF together and get the ball rolling towards a cure for this terrible and disabling disorder.”

Trigeminal neuralgia is thought to arise from disturbances of a nerve called the trigeminal nerve that receives sensation from the face including the eyes, nose and teeth. But procedures aimed at disrupting the nerve’s activity often provide only incomplete or temporary relief, suggesting that other abnormalities also persist within the brain.

Michael Pasternak, Ph.D., one of the founding trustees of the foundation, said the gift is to support UF researchers and, in turn, raise awareness and find solutions for these rare but devastating diseases.

Thomas Wasdin, a member of the foundation’s board of directors and a former trigeminal neuralgia patient, shared his testimony.

“There’s hope so you can’t just give up,” Wasdin said. “It was our dream to start this fund, and we feel blessed to be able to help and be a part of the solution. It’s a team effort.”

Wasdin’s wife, Susie, tearfully recalled the painful but now rewarding journey to her husband’s recovery and expressed how happy she is to be able to help others who share similar experiences by supporting researchers and physicians at the UF College of Medicine.

“Pain syndromes are such challenging problems,” said the UF College of Medicine Dean Michael L. Good, M.D. “Our medical school can only be great with partnerships such as this. These gifts are what help us keep great doctors and researchers here. There is no better spokesman than a former patient like Tom. Thank you.”