Neuropathic pain is a chronic disease characterized by spontaneous pain and an exaggerated pain response to non-harmful stimuli. The disease is caused by injury to the peripheral nerves. Current treatments for neuropathic pain target neuronal activity, suppressing their excitability in the central or peripheral nervous systems. However they are often ineffective for chronic pain patients because neurons are not the only cells involved in the development of neuropathic pain.

It has been well-established that peripheral nerve injury also elicits an inflammatory response. More specifically, this response involves two distinct populations of macrophages that play opposite roles, a key discovery made by Dr. Ji Zhang’s Lab at McGill University. These immune cells play obligatory roles during the development of neuropathic pain, therefore new therapeutic strategies targeting these macrophage populations should be considered.

In order to encourage further advances in the field of neuroimmunology and the development of novel treatments for neuropathic pain, researchers will need to communicate their leading-edge research in an engaging manner in order to inspire the upcoming scientists of tomorrow to follow their lines of questioning.

Static 2D educational images of the peripheral nerve environment exist, however they fail to capture the cellular dynamics and interactions of the peripheral nerve environment. The complexity of the spatial architecture and dynamic processes in the peripheral nerve microenvironment make three dimensional (3D) animation an ideal medium of communication.

Understanding the role of macrophages in chronic pain remains in its infancy, and unfortunately no 3D animations depicting these discoveries are available for students at the present time. The challenge for this visualization is to create an educationally-motivating animation targeted towards upper-level undergraduate students and potential graduate students to help them visually comprehend:

  • The dynamic microenvironment of the peripheral nerve and how it changes after peripheral nerve injury.
  • The differential functions of two macrophage populations found in the peripheral nerve environment and how they impact on neuropathic pain.
  • How these two populations of macrophages can be manipulated as a potential treatment strategy for neuropathic pain.



November 2012 - January 2013


October 2012- January 2013




Prof. Marc Dryer (Supervisor)
Hons BA, MSc, MScBMC
Senior lecturer
Biomedical Communications
Department of Biology
University of Toronto Mississauga

Dr. Linda Wilson-Pauwels
AOCA, BSc.AAM, M.Ed., Ed.D
Biomedical Communications
Department of Biology
University of Toronto Mississauga

Dr. Ji Zhang (Content Advisor)
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Dentistry, Faculty of Medicine
Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery
McGill University






Quebec Pain Research Network

Vesalius Trust Research Grant
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all contents © Joy Qu 2014