Neuro-Immunology of pain - Group Eijkelkamp


Chronic pain affects ~20% of the population and is difficult to treat. To identify potential novel pain treatments we need deeper understanding of the mechanisms that drive chronic pain. We are interested in the neurobiology of chronic pain and focus primarily on interactions between the immune system and the sensory nervous system. By understanding which neuro-immune interactions are important contributors to chronic pain development, we aim to identify and develop new highly needed therapeutics to treat painful conditions. We perform fundamental research and aim to translate our research into the clinic by collaborating with scientists and clinicians.

Research programs

Infection and Immunity
Child Health


Niels Eijkelkamp


088-755 4354

Research interests

  • Immune cells contributing to resolution and maintenance of pain
  • Development of fusion proteins of regulatory cytokines for the treatment of chronic pain
  • Mitochondria in regulating neuronal homeostasis and pain.
  • Bonepain: Mechanisms of Osteoarthritis (OA) and bone cancer induced pain
  • Neuropathy in diabetes Mellitus
  • Biomarkers and predictors of OA and juvenile idiopathic arthritis pain

Group members


Hanneke Willemen 

Kim Verheijden

Senior researcher

Judith Prado

Research technicians

Sabine Versteeg
Anne Heijnemans
Fanny Boisnard


PhD students

Ramin Raoof
Mohammed Asiri
Christian Martin Gil
Maarten Mensink
Patricia Ribeiro


Romy van Eck
Sanne Baauw
Roeland Lokhorst
Laurence Cleenewerk

Key Publications

  1. Willemen HLDM, Kavelaars A, Prado J, Maas M, Versteeg S, Nellissen LJJ, Tromp J, Cano RG, Zhou W, Jakobsson ME, Malecki J, Posthuma G, Habib AM, Heijnen CJ, Falnes ØP, Eijkelkamp N. Identification of FAM173B as a protein methyltransferase promoting chronic pain. Plos Biology, 2018. View
  2. Raoof R, Willemen HLDM, Eijkelkamp N. Divergent roles of immune cells and their mediators in pain. Rheumatology, 2017. View
  3. Eijkelkamp N, Steen-Louws C, Hartgring SA, Willemen HLDM, Prado J, Lafeber FP, Heijnen CJ, Hack CE, van Roon JA, Kavelaars A. IL4-10 Fusion Protein Is a Novel Drug to Treat Persistent Inflammatory Pain. J. Neurosci, 2016. View
  4. Eijkelkamp N, Linley JE, Torres JM, Bee L, Dickenson AH, Gringhuis M, Minett MS, Hong GS, Lee E, Oh U, Ishikawa Y, Zwartkuis FJ, Cox JJ, Wood JN. A role for Piezo2 in EPAC1-dependent mechanical allodynia. Nat Commun. 2013;4:1682. View

PhD theses

GRK2 and chronic pain

Huijing Wang








Congress of the European Pain Federation

Financial aid to attend the congress in Valencia - Mohammed Asiri (2019)

17th World Congress on Pain

Financial aid to attend the congress in Boston - Ramin Raoof (2018)

Bright Sparks Award

Ramin Raoof 2018

The Challenge of Chronic Pain Conferences

Bursary to attend the conferences in Cambridge - Ramin Raoof (2017)

EMBO short term fellowship Travel Grant

Hanneke Willemen (2014)

Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds Travel Grant

Hanneke Willemen (2013)


In the media

29 Aug 2019: Op zoek naar de oorzaken van pijn bij artrose - ReumaNederland nieuws

20 Mar 2019: Naar een effectieve behandeling van chronische pijn - De Instantie voor Dierenwelzijn Utrecht

16 Jul 2018: Veni-subsidie voor 22 jonge Utrechtse wetenschappers - Utrecht University Nieuws

14 Sep 2016: Team van onderzoekers werkt aan volgende fase medicijn synerkine - ReumaNederland nieuws

28 Jul 2013: Nieuwe kijk op chronische pijn - Hanneke Willemen for MEDNET


University Medical Center Utrecht

Dr. Linde Meyaard & Dr. Michiel v/d Vlist
Dr. Jeanette Leusen
Dr. Jo Hoppener
Dr. Floris Lafeber & Simon Mastbergen

Utrecht University

Dr. Remco Westerink

Amsterdam Medical Center

Dr. Jeroen Dunnen


Dr. Pal Falnes, Oslo University, Norway
Dr. Cobi Heijnen & Dr. Annemieke Kavelaars, MD Anderson, Houston, USA


Video: nerves innervating human synovial tissue

Mouse dorsal root ganglion neurons

Nerves innervating the skin

Human dorsal root ganglion neurons