Our lab is interested in the mechanisms of sensory neuron sensitization with a particular emphasis on nociceptive processing. We have two main focuses: peripheral mechanisms of musculoskeletal pain and the sensitization of developing sensory neurons.

Pain is a major health issue that affects a large number of people worldwide. The mechanisms by which pain develops in children may be distinct from adults and influenced by non-neuronal communication. While we do know a great deal of information about the role of nociceptors in the development of pain states, we do not have a comprehensive understanding of how distinct subtypes of sensory fibers modulate pain after muscle injury, during development or as a result of neonatal insults which may alter the function of sensory neurons into adulthood.

In order to increase our knowledge of these fibers, we utilize several ex vivo recording preparations that enable us to comprehensively phenotype sensory afferent fibers before and after peripheral insults in neonatal and adult mice. In addition to electrophysiological recording, we also utilize a variety of other techniques including RNA interference, chemogenetics, transgenics, viral delivery methods, realtime RT-PCR, single cell transcriptomics, western blotting, immunocytochemistry, fluorescence and confocal microscopy, electron microscopy, mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia, spontaneous pain measurements, cardiovascular monitoring, primary neuron and heterologous cell cultures, and second messenger signaling methodologies to obtain a broad understanding of sensory function.

These studies will hopefully lead to the development of treatments for adverse changes in cardiovascular reflexes or musculoskeletal pain and will generate novel information on the development of both nociceptive and non-nociceptive afferents in relation to how they communicate with non-neuronal cells.

Our lab is also actively involved in the Neuromuscular Development Group. Our collaborations aim to accelerate research in the development and diseases of the neuromuscular system. We are also members of the Center for Understanding Pediatric Pain (CUPP) which highlights the breadth of expertise in pain research at Cincinnati Children’s.