Pilot Projects

2015 Pilot Grant Recipients

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. 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

PROJECT SUMMARY

Evidence suggests early life exposure to pain may enhance sensitivity to painful stimuli as well as promote innate anxiety behaviors later in life. To characterize early life exposure and how they alter the stress response later in life, Dr. Burman’s study will look at differences in developmental factors such as: the quantity and timing of early-life stress, the duration of the effect, the developmental stages during which it occurs, and the degree of stress required to activate hypersensitivity. Dr. Burman will also examine the role of CRF/Cortisol during an early life stressor to determine a possible mechanism for these phenomena. Data from this study will help shed light on the causes of predisposition towards chronic pain. Dr. Burman is collaborating with Tamara King, Ph.D., associate professor in the Biomedical Science Department and COBRE principle investigator, on this pilot project. Ian Meng, Ph.D., is his COBRE mentor on this project.

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 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.

Katherine Hanlon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine

PROJECT TITLE

Resident DRG Macrophages: Impact on Nociceptor Responses

PROJECT SUMMARY

The goal of Dr. Hanlon’s project is to evaluate the role of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) resident and recruited macrophages in response to peripheral nociceptor activation, or pain incident, in cell culture and in an animal model. Proinflammatory mediators released by immune cells contribute to sensitization of nociceptors following injury, and therefore, may be involved in the development of persistent pain. Dr. Hanlon’s lab has previously found that resident macrophages are present in naive DRG, and her pilot project will characterize the phenotype of resident macrophages in DRG. Determining the profile of macrophage cytokine expression will determine if and when macrophages are acting as pro verses anti-inflammatory. This project will also examine the extent to which purinergic P2 receptors contribute to sensory neuron-macrophage communication and cause underlying phenotypic changes in DRG macrophages. Derek Molliver, Ph.D., is her COBRE mentor on this project.

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

PROJECT SUMMARY

Chronic pain causes changes in the nervous system that heighten the perception of pain. These changes negatively impact the sensorimotor system and decrease the ability of people with chronic pain to benefit from rehabilitation programs. Dr. Rudolph’s pilot project will investigate whether altered pain processing in people with knee osteoarthritis influences sensorimotor adaptation and motor learning. The results of this study will provide insight into the need for changes in rehabilitation programs that are designed to improve knee stability in people with chronic pain. The results from her study may have immediate effects on interventions that are currently in use in physical therapy clinics that need to be modified in people with chronic pain. Ian Meng, Ph.D., is her COBRE mentor on this project.

2014 Pilot Grant Recipients

Glenn Stevenson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, College of Arts and Sciences.
View bio

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

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