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The year 1998... The Circumstances favorable... The Catalyst essential... The Man ready...

The Rest is history...

During the course of his Ph.D. studies, Dr. Al-Chaer pioneered work in the central neuronal processing of visceral pain. He established, along with colleagues in the Willis group, the presence of a new spinal pathway relatively specific for visceral pain. His results earned the recognition of scientific and clinical communities nationally and in the world at large. His findings amounted to a paradigm shift in the role of sensory pathways vis-a-vis visceral pain and had a tremendous impact on the surgical approach to deal with intractable visceral pain.

In 1998, Dr. Al-Chaer established a laboratory of neurophysiology and biobehavior (ACELAB) under the hospices of the Division of Gastroenterology at UTMB. His laboratory has developed for the first time an animal model for functional abdominal pain (FAP). In most tertiary centers of gastroenterology, the patient with FAP still presents one of the most vexing clinical challenges. We have shown that abnormal noxious events in the gastrointestinal tract during postnatal development can lead to a chronic state of visceral hyperalgesia that persists after the initial injury has resolved and in the absence of identifiable peripheral pathology. These postnatal events can have a long lasting impact on the neural processing of sensory information, that include alterations in the afferent pathways, hyperexcitability or sensitization of the receptive neurons and possibly a shift in the dynamics of descending controls, which in turn determines the visceral sensitivity of the adult organism and predisposes it to chronic visceral pain.

Today, the people at ACELAB continue to explore the neural mechanisms associated with pain symptoms refractory to conventional treatments. In particular, they work on defining the neurogenic components of otherwise puzzling pain syndromes. In addition, as part of their collaborative work with other pain investigators at UTMB, they continue to explore the interactive dynamics of spinal pathways and their roles in pain processing.

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