The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Symptom Research
The goal of my research laboratory is to understand the neuroinflammatory mechanisms that drive persistent pain, so that new treatment strategies can be developed. We focus on the mechanisms by which spinal cord microglia and astrocytes are activated after peripheral nerve injury, as well as the signaling cascades that contribute to activation and sensitization of neurons in pain pathways. Other projects in the lab include investigation of psychiatric disorders that are frequently co-morbid with chronic pain, such as depression, and the extent to which glia are a common substrate. To address these questions, we use a range of experimental techniques. These begin with in vitro systems using cell lines and primary rat, mouse and human cells, and extend to in vivo models of chronic pain using rats and mice (including transgenic lines). Experimental manipulations are made using pharmacological and genetic (RNAi, CRISPR/Cas9) approaches. Laboratory techniques include immunohistochemistry and microscopy, transcriptomics, single-cell RNA sequencing and PCR, and protein assays including Western blotting.
Current projects include analgesic drug development for the master controller of the antioxidant response (NFE2L2); the biochemistry of Fc antibody receptor signaling through astrocytes after peripheral nerve injury; and, the contribution of cortical and subcortical microglia to depression that is co-morbid with neuropathic pain.
Education & Training
PhD, University of Adelaide, 2011