Exploring link between ketogenic diet, pain relief

Research Associate Professor David Ruskin, middle of the back row, joins Trinity students who work in his lab. Front row: Livia Wyss ’16, Subrina Bisnauth ’15, and Lizzy Foley ’17; back row: Lyon H. Earle, Jr. Memorial Scholar and Summit Scholar Ariana Adamski ’17, Class of 1963 Scholar Hannah Reichert ’18Photo by John Marinelli

Research Associate Professor David Ruskin, middle of the back row, joins Trinity students who work in his lab. Front row: Livia Wyss ’16, Subrina Bisnauth ’15, and Lizzy Foley ’17; back row: Lyon H. Earle, Jr. Memorial Scholar and Summit Scholar Ariana Adamski ’17, Class of 1963 Scholar Hannah Reichert ’18
Photo by John Marinelli

David Ruskin, research associate professor, is testing the proposition that the ketogenic diet can be used to relieve pain. For his work, he recently was awarded a grant of more than $380,000 from the National Institutes of Health.

The low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet has been around for about a century as a treatment for epilepsy. Vernon Roosa Professor of Applied Science Susan Masino recently published an article that explored her findings that the diet’s effectiveness comes from increasing levels of adenosine. Other researchers have found that adenosine relieves pain. It stands to reason, therefore, that the ketogenic diet holds the potential to be successful in relieving pain. That proposition is what Ruskin and a group of Trinity undergraduate students are exploring in their research.

The six undergraduates are involved at every step, including running tests and collecting data. Their work, if it confirms their hypothesis, could have tremendous implications: this natural treatment for inflammatory pain would be welcomed by those who cannot use traditional pain relievers.

It is likely to be at least a year before Ruskin and the students have preliminary results, but their work is under way. This research is made possible by one of the hallmarks of a Trinity education: faculty members and undergraduate students collaborating on cutting-edge research.

“It’s been a great seven years at Trinity,” said Ruskin, who joined the faculty in 2008. “Working with students and other faculty members is very enjoyable.”

 

PHOTO: JOHN MARINELLI

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