Pilot Projects

COBRE Pilot Awards

The UNE Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for the Study of Pain and Sensory Function was established in 2012 through funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The Center’s mission is to significantly contribute to the scientific understanding of the neurobiology of chronic pain. The annual pilot project awards aids in this mission by supporting new projects at UNE in the field of sensory and pain research. This award also helps build the neuroscience research community at UNE. To date, three of these pilot projects have led to extramural awards

2017 COBRE Pilot Awards 

The 2017 pilot awards were supported by the COBRE 5P20GM103643, and the Office of Research and Scholarship.

Glenn Stevenson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences

Co-Investigator: Meghan May, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine

PROJECT TITLE

Effects of gut microbiome modulation on inflammatory pain-related behaviors

PROJECT SUMMARY

There has been recent interest in and exploration of the effects of the gut microbiome on brain function and behavior. Recent studies suggest that the integrity and diversity of gut microbiota can influence symptom severity of a broad array of peripheral and central nervous system disorders, including neuroflammation and peripheral visceral pain. This study will explore the effects of gut microbiome modulation on chronic inflammatory arthritis pain-related behaviors.

Derek Molliver, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine

PROJECT TITLE

Dynamic scaffolding of mu opioid receptor-associated complexes as a mechanism mediating opioid-induced hyperalgesia

PROJECT SUMMARY

The use of prolonged and/or high doses of opiates can lead to both tolerance and opioid induced hyperalgesia, posing a significant challenge to effective pain management during perioperative treatment as well as in the management of chronic pain. Both phenomena have been suggested to occur through changes in the coupling of the opioid receptors to downstream signaling molecules. Dr. Molliver’s project will look into the dynamic structure of signaling complexes regulating mu opioid receptor function and will produce a valuable dataset amenable to investigation of diverse mechanisms regulating mu opioid receptor function and opioid analgesia.

Kerry Tucker, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine

PROJECT TITLE

Primary cilia in nociceptive DRG neurons: Investigating a role in chronic pain 

PROJECT SUMMARY

Primary cilia modulate recovery from nociceptive hypersensitivity following acute inflammatory injury. The purpose Dr. Tucker’s study is to determine whether primary cilia play a similar role in chronic pain situations, as modeled by a neuropathic type of pain. If cilia are involved in the development of chronic pain, this could be a new target for therapeutic approaches to pain therapy.

 

Geoffrey Ganter, Ph.D.

Professor in the College of Arts and Scences

PROJECT TITLE

Peripheral and central determinants of injury-induced nociceptive sensitization in Drosophila

PROJECT SUMMARY

Dr. Ganter’s project will further evaluate the role of the BMP signaling pathway and how it is involved turning an injury into pain sensitization in primary nociceptors. Because BMPs are so well conserved between flies and mammals, the human orthologs of components that we discover will represent novel targets for chronic pain-relieving drugs for human patients. Furthermore, Dr. Ganter will work to establish a model of injury-induced central sensitization in preparation for identification of novel sensitization pathways in the central nervous system.


2016 Pilot Grant Recipients
The 2016 pilot awards were supported by the COBRE 5P20GM103643.

Meghan May, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine

PROJECT TITLE

Mechanisms of Infection-Mediated Pain

PROJECT SUMMARY

Pain during infection was once thought to stem exclusively from inflammation and tissue damage; however, recent studies have indicated bacteria may directly stimulate nociceptors during infection. Such evidence raises the possibility that there are pain inducing and non-pain inducing bacteria. Dr. May’s pilot project is centered on characterizing microbial components that either stimulate or antagonize nociception. Dr. May will use three pathogens associated with inducing pain (Streptococcus pyogenes, uropathogenic Escherichia coli and Mycoplasma fermentans) and three beneficial commensal organisms (Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Escherichia coli and Mycoplasma pirum) to determine the mechanisms behind their actions. Dr. May’s project is in collaboration with Tamara King, Ph.D., associate professor in the Biomedical Science Department. Derek Molliver, Ph.D., is her COBRE mentor for this project. 

Kerry Tucker, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine

PROJECT TITLE

Primary Cilia in Nociceptive DRG Neurons: Potential Links to Acute and Chronic Pain

PROJECT SUMMARY

The goal of Dr. Tucker’s pilot project is to investigate a possible role for primary cilia on nociceptive neurons of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) in modulating nociceptive signaling in acute and chronic pain situations. Primary cilia are short hair-like structures protruding from the surface of almost every cell in the body defective cilia, or ciliopathies, are known to play an essential role in a wide variety of neuronal functions. Sensory neurons of the DRG elaborate robust primary cilia at their soma as soon as they are formed and settle into the DRG at mid-gestation. Dr. Tucker's initial investigation will look at the role that primary cilia play in the development and function of nociceptive neurons in current murine models which are already known to lose their cilia after they take residence in the DRG. Edward Bilsky, Ph.D., is his COBRE mentor on this project.


2015 Pilot Grant Recipients

The 2015 pilot awards were supported in part by the COBRE 5P20GM103643, UNE’s Office of Sponsored Research, and Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences.

Michael Burman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences

PROJECT TITLE

Effects of Early Life Pain on Subsequent Fear Conditioning and Sensory Function*

*Transitioned to COBRE Project September 2016

Meghan May, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine

PROJECT TITLE

Mechanisms of Infection-Mediated Pain

Kerry Tucker, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine

PROJECT TITLE

Primary Cilia in Nociceptive DRG Neurons: Potential Links to Acute and Chronic Pain

Katherine Hanlon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine

PROJECT TITLE

Resident DRG Macrophages: Impact on Nociceptor Responses*

*American Pain Society Rita Allen Fellowship Award - Received April 2016

Katherine Rudolph, P.T., Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the Westbrook College of Health Professions

PROJECT TITLE

Chronic Pain, Motor Output and Motor Learning in Knee Osteoarthritis*

*R15 Grant Awarded April 2016


2014 Pilot Grant Recipients

Glenn Stevenson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, College of Arts and Sciences.
View bio

*R15 Grant Awarded September 2014 

Tamara King, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine. View bio

PROJECT TITLE

Characterization of Delta/Mu Opioid Receptor Interactions on Chronic Osteoarthritis Pain-depressed Behaviors*

*Transitioned to COBRE Project October 2014

John Streicher, Ph.D. 

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine. View bio

PROJECT TITLE

Identification of the Activated Signaling Complex of the Mu Opioid Receptor


2013 Pilot Grant Recipients 

Tamara King, Ph.D.

 Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

PROJECT TITLE: 

Peripheral Mechanisms of Ongoing Osteoarthritis Pain

 

John Streicher, Ph.D. 

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

PROJECT TITLE: 

Identification of the Activated Signaling Complex of the Mu Opioid Receptor