The Stone Pain Lab is a research laboratory at McGill University headed by Laura S Stone, PhD.

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The lab's research objective is to improve diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain by expanding our understanding of its neurochemistry and neuropathology.




Many analgesic drugs, including opioids like morphine, interact in a synergistic manner when co-administered. This is important clinically as co-administration of synergistic drug combinations can maximize pain relief while minimizing adverse side effects. We investigate the molecular mechanism underlying these interactions. This information could help to design safer, better tolerated and more effective pharmacological treatments for chronic pain.




Epigenetics is a broad term used to refer to chemical modifications to DNA that regulate gene expression such as DNA methylation, which is linked to many diseases including cancer and type II diabetes. In collaboration with Dr. Moshe Szyf, we are studying the epigenetic regulation of chronic pain, which is currently virtually unexplored. Our demonstrated a role for epigenetic regulation in chronic low back pain in both mice and in humans (Tajerian et al., 2011) was the first demonstration of epigenetic control of a single gene being associated with a human chronic pain condition. We recently received a Neuropathic Pain Research Award from Pfizer Canada to study the role of DNA methylation in chronic pain in the brain.




Persistent back pain is the most common chronic pain condition in Canadians age 65 and under. The vast majority of individuals suffer for years with little relief. This is due, in part, to a lack of understanding of the underlying causes of back pain. We are engaged in both pre-clinical and human studies designed to understand the pathophysiology of low back pain and how it can be treated.


Pre-clinical Studies


Degeneration of the intervertebral discs in the spine is associated with increased risk of chronic low back pain. Unfortunately, the relationship between disc degeneration and chronic pain is not well understood. We have developed a rodent model of back pain due to degeneration of the spine as a tool to study this phenomenon (Millecamps et al., 2011, 2012). This model will increase our understanding of the relationship between disc degeneration and pain and will allow for the identification and testing of novel therapeutic interventions for the alleviation of chronic low back pain.


Human Studies


Relationship between Intervertebral Disc Degeneration, Innervation and Low Back Pain: Increases in nerve fibers within degenerating discs has been proposed as a mechanism contributing to chronic pain. We are performing anatomical and biochemical studies on human lumbar discs obtained surgically from chronic pain patients and post-mortem from transplant donors to understand the relationship between low back pain, disc degeneration and disc innervation in humans.


Effect of treatment of chronic low back pain on abnormal brain anatomy and function: Chronic pain is associated with pathological changes in certain regions of the brain. The consequences of these changes are not yet fully understood. We are using magnetic resonance imaging in chronic low back pain patients to address this question. Our data indicates that some pain-related changes in the brain can be reversed by effective treatment, suggesting that the brain can recover from chronic pain. Our first study on this topic (Seminowicz et. al.) was published in the Journal of Neuroscience and received international coverage in the lay press.


Human Biomarkers for Low Back Pain: A biological marker or biomarker is any characteristic that can be measured and evaluated as an indicator of normal biologic processes, pathologic processes or responses to therapeutic intervention. We are currently examining samples of cerebral spinal fluid and saliva from patients with chronic low back pain for potential biomarkers using traditional biochemical and cutting edge proteomics methods (i.e. LC-MS/MS). The identification of biomarkers for chronic low back pain will provide insight into its diagnosis and treatment.