Meet Christian Vægter

Portrait of Christian Vægter
Photo: Lars Kruse, AU Photo

“I am interested in how injury or diseases of the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord – the peripheral sensory nerves – seem to generate a state of chronic pain by ‘changing the programming of the nervous system’.”

Targeting chronic neuropathic pain – could ‘Glia’ be the key?

What goes wrong on a molecular and cellular level, when an injury or disease of the peripheral nerves leads to chronic neuropathic pain and consequently decreased quality of life? That is a fundamental question for associate professor Christian Vægter, born 1974, who is a researcher in the field of neurobiology.

Neuropatic pain affects more than 300,000 persons in Denmark and the symptoms vary greatly from person to person. Patients often use words such as sharp, hot, cold, stinging or burning. The pain is triggered either spontaneously or by harmless stimuli like an easy touch or a change of temperature - completely different from the pain that develops when we stub a toe on a piece of furniture or damage the body with e.g. pinching, chemicals or hot water.

“I’m interested in how injury or diseases of the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord – the peripheral sensory nerves – seem to generate a state of chronic pain by ‘changing the programming of the nervous system’. Examples can be trauma after traffic accidents, surgery  and sports injury or it can be a consequence of a disease like diabetes,” Christian Vægter says.

Organized around grants from the Independent Research Fund Denmark and the Innovation Fund Denmark the lab mainly focuses on how supporting cells in the nerves, the Glia, interact with healthy neurons and how this balance is disturbed. Each neuron is closely covered by a dozen of so-called Satellite Glial Cells as well as hundreds to thousands of Schwann cells, indicating that these Glia are ideally positioned to support the function of neurons.

“Yet, focus has mainly been on understanding the neurons whereas we know very little about these Glia. My lab now examines them more closely to find out how we can manipulate them into helping the neuron to behave normally again,” says Christian Vægter, who recently had a partnership in a grant from the Innovation Fund Denmark about the development of a pain drug targeting the Glia. Today there is no efficient drugs to treat the patients.

Read more at Christian Vægter’s profile at the interdisciplinary research institute DANDRITE’s webpage.

Portrait of Christian Vægter
Photo: Lars Kruse, AU Photo

“I am interested in how injury or diseases of the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord – the peripheral sensory nerves – seem to generate a state of chronic pain by ‘changing the programming of the nervous system’.”