Interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome (IC/PBS) is a common chronic bladder syndrome characterized by bladder pain and discomfort (urgency) and increased frequency of urination. It is part of a larger group of chronic functional pain disorders, which also include such common disorders as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and fibromyalgia (FM). A common feature of these syndromes is that they are multifactorial and present clinically as a mosaic of biologic and psychologic phenotypes. Despite intense, largely target organ-based drug development efforts, existing treatments are unsatisfactory. The current proposal, co-directed by experienced, senior investigators from gastroenterology and urology builds on this interdisciplinary view and aims to characterize the interactions of biological and environmental vulnerability factors to shape behavioral and neurobiological endophenotypes, and ultimately clinical phenotypes in IC/PBS. The 3 Projects of the proposal address the following 3 areas: Project 1 is a targeted epidemiological project studying the impact of genetic markers, early life experiences and adult stress on IC/PBS symptoms and comorbid pain syndromes. Project 2 is a clinical/translational study in a small cohort of IC/PBS patients (and in a rodent model of early life and chronic stress) which aims at characterizing several neurobiological and behavioral endophenotypes, and identifying their relationship to gene polymorphisms. Project 3 is a basic science study in IC/PBS patients and in the same rodent stress model which aims at studying cellular and molecular consequences of altered noradrenergic/SNS signaling on the urothelium and spinal glial cells. These projects involve a wide range of epidemiological, psychophysiological, neurobiological and molecular techniques, performed by an interdisciplinary group of investigators ranging from Urology, Gastroenterology, Epidemiology and Neuroscience, who have access to an established infrastructure to study neurovisceral interactions, and who have extensive previous experience in the study of functional pain syndromes, including IBS and IC/PBS. The projects closely interact with each other, and project investigators have been interacting with a large group of researchers and affiliated institutions. By deconstructing the complex, symptom-based syndrome of IC/PBS into distinct, neurobiological and behavioral endophenotypes, we anticipate the identification of more rationale drug development targets, and ultimately the development of more effective therapies.
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