Our lab is interested in determining the cellular and molecular changes that underlie the development of chronic pain conditions. Over 100 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from chronic pain, but the treatments available to these patients are few and their use is limited by severe side effects of these medications. Unfortunately for these individuals, little progress has been made in the development of new types of medications to treat chronic pain.
In our lab, we utilize a combination of behavioral studies, patch clamp electrophysiology, optogenetic, molecular and genetic approaches to understand the signaling pathways involved in nervous system plasticity that underlies pain sensitization. Our studies examine plasticity in primary sensory neurons where painful stimuli are transduced, in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord where the first synaptic relay occurs for pain signals headed to the brain, and in the amygdala, a region of the brain important for the negative emotional components of pain. Our goal is to identify molecular targets for the development of new classes of pain relieving medications.
Work in the lab also includes clinical science aimed at translating findings from the lab into new or improved therapies for patients with pain. Our studies include comparative studies of human physiology to preclinical models, as well as healthy human volunteer studies aimed at establishing proof of concept for novel analgesic therapies based on our preclinical work.