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Greg Scherrer, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and physiology, and joint professor of pharmacology, will use two NIH grants and a Brain Research Foundation award to further study how opioids interact with brain mechanisms, with the ultimate goal of creating better medications to treat chronic pain.

Greg Scherrer, PhD

Green and purple neurons involved in pain.
Neurons involved in pain. (Scherrer Lab)

A member of the UNC Neuroscience Center, Greg Scherrer, PhD, received three grants totaling more than $11 million to continue his work.

One grant is from the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative (NIH HEAL Initiative) to investigate pain relief mechanisms in the brain that play significant roles in chronic pain, a condition that affects about 100 million people in the United States alone.

The Scherrer lab also received a fourth R01 NIH grant – $7 million over five years – for an interdisciplinary project to generate and make publicly available an exceptional resource for the opioid research field: a comprehensive accounting of the various brain cell types that express each of the opioid receptors and peptides, as well as the cell-type-specific molecular changes that occur when these brain cells are exposed to opioids.

He also received a Brain Research Foundation Scientific Innovations Award for $150,000 over two years to study the intersection of pain relief and addiction caused by opioid use.



“Our HEAL Initiative project will identify new pain relief targets within brain circuits, setting the stage for new medications to alleviate the emotional suffering of individuals without the addictive side effects associated with opioids.” ~ Greg Scherrer

~Excerpts from the original article of the same title published on UNC Health Care Newsroom on June 3, 2021.