Central service project in KFO 5001

The Z-project of the research unit KFO 5001 ResolvePAIN is a service project for the training of clinician scientists, for central services, and long-term clinical observations. In addition, the technology for the generation of patient-derived sensory-like neurons will be optimized here.

Central project

In the patient-centered project Z of the research unit KFO 5001 four aims are pursued:

  1. Qualification of clinician scientists as future independent scientific project leaders.
  2. Provision of central services such as magnetic resonance neurography, collection of patient samples, and establishment of a diagnostic platform for the analysis of skin and blood samples
  3. Longitudinal clinical studies on the course of pain in neuropathic pain syndromes
  4. Generation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from skin fibroblasts to be differentiated into sensory-like neurons.

Clinician Scientist Program

How can we train research-oriented physicians in the long term and establish clinical-molecular research in Würzburg? To this end, we have come up with a concept that will be implemented in project group Z: Clinician Scientists will be trained in clinical molecular studies. Within this framework, standardized procedures for molecular diagnostics and imaging will also be established. 

The Clinician Scientists are a subgroup of the Integrative Clinician Scientist College of the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research (IZKF). In addition to hands-on training, participation in the PainScouts program of ResolvePAIN is provided. General research skills are acquired together with other IZKF-Clinician Scientists.


Prof. Alexander Brack, MD, Deputy Head of the Department of Anesthesiology.
Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Nicolas Schlegel, Consultant in the Department of General and Visceral Surgery 

Central services 

For all project participants of the KFO 5001 ResolvePAIN study, standardized new examination methods will be established in project Z. These will result from the clinical studies of patients and will be available as a central service to each project group. In addition to the collection and analysis of patient samples, these include imaging techniques. 

MRI imaging of dorsal root ganglia

Both, morphological and functional changes of the dorsal root ganglia are to be investigated by imaging with high-resolution MRI special examinations during pain development and resolution. By means of contrast agent administration, we will visualize the blood flow of the dorsal root ganglion. This allows to draw conclusions about its functionality. These findings and the comparison with the dorsal root ganglion on the opposite side could provide information on the stage and prognosis of neuropathy. Within the framework of KFO 5001 and in the context of experimental new examinations, the UKW’s Department of Neurology examines the condition and changes of the dorsal root ganglia from study participants in the course of the observation period. One particular advantage is that it involves non-invasive examinations. 


Univ.-Prof. Mirko Pham, MD, Head of the Department of Neuroradiology.

Biosample analysis and biosamples

In the search for biomarkers that allow assessment of the risk of pain resolution, a blood and a tissue platform will be created in the research group KFO 5001. In blood, we hope to find characteristic changes in laboratory data – also in combination or in relation to each other – reflecting the course of pain.

For tissue and skin samples, the most significant staining procedures and measurement methods are to be evaluated. This is necessary for a differentiated analysis of skin nerves, Schwann cells, receptors, growth factors or barrier molecules, which could be important in the development and regression of pain. This would allow to identify certain patterns from the results collected and therefore to develop standard diagnostic procedures.


Prof. Dr. med. Alexander Brack, Deputy Head of the Department of Anesthesiology, Würzburg University Hospital.
Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Claudia Sommer, Senior Physician in the Department of Neurology, University Hospital Würzburg 

Long-term clinical studies

Long-term clinical studies are investigating disease progression and pain regression in two conditions in which neuropathic pain is a disease-defining symptom: chronic postoperative groin pain (CPIP) and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Both are characterized by improvement of pain in a larger proportion of patients, but not in some. Patients  are thoroughly examined clinically and their samples are analyzed at the molecular level. Comprehensive characterization at multiple stages of disease progression in the context of systematic follow-up will also identify potential prognostic factors. Such biomarkers would enable faster intervention in the next step as well as advance personalized medicine.


Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Heike Rittner, Head of the Pain Center, University of Würzburg.
Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Nicolas Schlegel, Head of the Experimental Visceral Surgery, University Hospital Würzburg

Cultivation of patient-derived sensory-like neurons

We aim to generate sensory-like neurons and Schwann cells from skin fibroblasts  of study participants via induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Hereby, biomaterial of selected patients with neurofibromatosis or neuropathy due to a genetic predisposition will be used. By in vitro analysis of these cells in mono- and co-culture upon optimization of our protocols, we aim at understanding the underlying pathomechanisms of pain development and resolution. 


Univ.-Prof. Nurcan Üçeyler, MD, Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Würzburg, Germany.
Dr. rer. nat. Julia Grüner, PostDoc, Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Würzburg, Germany.

Research team Z


Prof. Dr. Alexander Brack, MD
Deputy Head of the Department of Anesthesiology
University Hospital Würzburg

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Mirko Pham, MD
Head of the Department of Neuroradiology
University Hospital Würzburg

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Nicolas Schlegel, MD
General and Visceral Surgery
University Hospital Würzburg

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Nurcan Üçeyler, MD
Department of Neurology
University Hospital Würzburg

Members of the team

Dr. Juliane  Becker, MD
Clinician Scientist Anesthesiology

Carolin Dorsch
PhD Student Anesthesiology

Florine Feurer
PhD Student Anesthesiology

Dr. rer. nat. Julia Grüner
PhD Neurology

Dr. Florian Hessenauer, MD
Clinician Scientist Neuroradiology

Dr. Michael Harnik, MD
Researcher, Molecular Pain Research Group

Eva Herrmann
PhD Student Anesthesiology

Yuying Jin
PhD Student Neurology

Ida Kazerani
Master Student Tranlational Neuroscience.

Eda Kutluyuva
Bachelor Student

PD Dr. Michael Meir, PhD
Working group Prof. Dr. Schlegel, MD

Dr. Aikaterini Papagianni, MD
Working group Prof. Dr. Claudia Sommer, MD, Neurology

Dr. Eva Rampeltshammer, MD
Clinician Scientist Neurosurgery

Dr. Ann-Kristin Reinhold, MD
Clinician Scientist Anesthesiology

Dr. Magnus Schindehütte, MD
Clinician Scientist Neuroradiology

Gudrun Schell
Study Nurse

Dr. Simon Weiner, MD
Clinician Scientist Neuroradiology

Jonathan Weippert
PhD Student Anesthesiology

Dr. Anna Widder, MD
Clinician Scientist Surgery

Dr. Xiang Zhou, MD
Clinician Scientist Internal Medicine II

Selected publications

Dietz C, Müller M, Reinhold AK, Karch L, Schwab B, Forer L, Vlckova E, Brede EM, Jakubietz R, Üçeyler N, Meffert R, Bednarik J, Kress M, Sommer C, Dimova V, Birklein F, Rittner HL (2019)
What is normal trauma healing and what is complex regional pain syndrome I? An analysis of clinical and experimental biomarkers.
Pain. 2019 Oct;160 (10): 2278-2289
Go to publication 

Egenolf N, Zu Altenschildesche CM, Kreß L, Eggermann K, Namer B, Gross F, Klitsch A, Malzacher T, Kampik D, Malik RA, Kurth I, Sommer C, Üçeyler N (2021)
Diagnosing small fiber neuropathy in clinical practice: a deep phenotyping study.
Ther Adv Neurol Disord. 2021 Mar 23;14:17562864211004318.
Go to publication 


Portraitfoto von Prof. Dr. med. Alexander Brack

Prof. Dr.
Alexander Brack, MD

PI Project ABCA1 (P9) and Service-Project Z

+49 931 201-30052

Portraitfoto: Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Mirko Pham

Univ.-Prof. Dr.
Mirko Pham, MD

PI Project Neurofibromatosis (P2) and Service-Project Z

+49 931 201-34805

Portraitfoto: Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Heike Rittner

Univ.-Prof. Dr.
Heike Rittner, MD

Scientific Coordinator

+49 931 201-30251

Portraitfoto von Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Nicolas Schlegel

Univ.-Prof. Dr.
Nicolas Schlegel, MD

PI Service-Project Z

+49 931 201-38217

Portraitfoto: Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Claudia Sommer

Univ.-Prof. Dr.
Claudia Sommer, MD

Speaker of the Clinical Research Unit

+49 931 201-23763

Portraitfoto von Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Nurcan Üçeyler MHBA

Univ.-Prof. Dr.
Nurcan Üçeyler, MD, MHBA

PI Service-Project Z

+49 931 201-23542