August 11, 2020

Boehnke receives NIH K01 Career Development Award

His research will investigate cannabinoid effects on sleep and pain of knee osteoarthritis patients 

Kevin Boehnke

Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., has received a 4-year, $569,355 National Institutes of Health K01 Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award. Boehnke, research investigator in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, is investigating cannabinoid effects on sleep and pain mechanisms in those with knee osteoarthritis. 

“One of the unanswered questions in the field of cannabis is: Are the positive effects on pain due to actual analgesic effects, or is it that cannabinoids are helping people sleep and then that sleep is what’s improving the pain?” he said. 

During the study, Boehnke will observe sleep quality through participants’ self-report measures and wrist activity sensors (like a Fitbit) to examine cannabinoid effects on sleep and to compare the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or a combination of both. Boehnke predicts that participants will see improved sleep with cannabinoids compared to placebo, with the most improvement coming from a combination of CBD and THC. Further, he expects to find that the sleep improvement could partially mediate improvements in pain.

Boehnke’s work is a secondary study to support a five-year R01 recently awarded to Associate Professor Richard Harris and Associate Research Scientist Steve Harte to investigate the effects of cannabinoids on pain processing in knee osteoarthritis patients. Boehnke also serves as co-investigator of the parent clinical trial as part of his K01.

The K01 program provides mentorship support and dedicated time for early-career scientists to develop and advance their research. Boehnke’s mentorship team includes Harris and Harte, as well as:

  • Daniel Clauw, M.D., professor of anesthesiology, internal medicine and psychiatry; director, Translational Research; director, Center for Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research

  • David WIlliams, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology, medicine (rheumatology), Psychiatry, and Psychology; associate director, Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center

  • Helen Burgess, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry; co-director, Sleep and Circadian Research Laboratory

  • Alexander Tsodikov, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics