Texas dental school to study opioid alternatives with $9.8M federal grant

The UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry received a $9.8 million grant to study new painkiller medicines that could be alternatives to opioids.

The research team, led by Armen Akopian, PhD, will study how sensory neurons in the jaw joint and mastication muscles influence and create pain. Opioids are often prescribed to patients with jaw joint and facial muscle pain because there is no alternative medicine, according to a Jan. 23 news release from the school. 

Researchers will create 3D maps of the different types of sensory neurons found in jaw joint structures to determine how the nerves are distributed or innervated throughout the tissue in the joint. The resulting information will help in the development of new, more precise therapies and medicines to restore joint health and provide an alternative to opioids.

The grant will last five years and was awarded as part of the National Institutes of Health's RE-JOIN Consortium, which is an effort to discover scientific solutions to help aid the national opioid public health crisis, the release said. 

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