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The central focus of our research is the study of the interaction between nervous system, tissue cells and inflammatory cells in pain and itch processing. Of special interest for the pathophysiology of pain are inflammatory mediators which activate or sensitize nociceptive nerve fibers acutely as well as neurotrophins which modulate nerve terminal sensitivity in the long term. On the other hand, nerve fibers release neuropeptides which have a trophic and immunomodulating effect.
We investigate the structure and function of axons and nerve terminals and their response to various inflammatory mediators. We selected and adapted methodologies such that they can be equally applied to humans and animals. Since the neuronal supply of the skin in the pig is very similar to that of humans, we consider pig skin the most appropriate experimental animal model in this context. As traditional electrophysiological techniques, we use microneurography in subjects and patients as well as single fiber recording in vivo in the pig. Furthermore, we have been developing cell culture systems which enable us to examine axons and sensory nerve endings directly. Electrophysiological recordings from nerve endings in the cornea of guinea pigs and mice are conducted using a loose patch clamp technique. To analyse local mediator concentrations, microdialysis is used in patients, subjects and animals and neuronal effects on the tissue are determined with non-invasive techniques.