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Distinguished New York Times Journalist

Mervyn Rothstein Interviews Famous

Pain Researcher

 

Dr. Marshall Devor

 

By Mervyn Rothstein

Dr. Marshall Devor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is principal investigator for the Facial Pain Research Foundation’s first international research project to find a cure for trigeminal neuralgia. The project is entitled “In Search of A Cure ... Finding The Genes That Predispose to Trigeminal Neuralgia.” It is based on the concept, first enunciated by Dr. Douglas Anderson, a foundation trustee and director of research programs, that there is a likely genetic basis for trigeminal neuralgia. Dr. Anderson had noticed that the anatomy of compressed nerves and lesions that is a likely cause of trigeminal neuralgia was seen in many people but only a few had trigeminal neuralgia. Professor Devor is an award-winning scientist who has had a long and significant career in pain research and has contributed considerably to our understanding of the neurobiological basis of neuropathic pain. He is a laboratory head and former chairman of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the Institute of Life Sciences at Hebrew University. He is also a founder of the University's Center for Research on Pain. His undergraduate and graduate work was done at Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Joanna Zakrzewska of London, England, the Facial Pain Research Foundation’s international research coordinator, contacted Dr. Devor to prepare a research proposal for the project, which was approved by the foundation. Dr. Devor is leading the research project, whose other principal investigators are Dr. Kim Burchiel, Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, and Dr. Ze’ev Seltzer, Professor of Genetics at The University of Toronto.

Dr. Devor, 64, a native of Toronto, Canada, was one of seven winners of the 2012 EMET Prize for Art, Science and Culture, an annual honor given to Israeli citizens for “academic and professional achievements that have far-reaching influence and make a significant contribution to society.” He split a $1 million prize with the other winners.

Mervyn Rothstein, a retired editor and writer at The New York Times who has trigeminal neuralgia, spoke by phone from New York City to Jerusalem, Israel with Dr. Devor about the professor’s research goals. What follows is an edited version of their conversation.

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