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UNE researcher Ling Cao receives $330,000 NIH funding to study the role of murine AIDS viral infection induced chronic pain and neuropathy

October 04, 2009

Ling Cao, Ph.D., a neuroimmunologist in the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine's Department of Biomedical Sciences, has received an R21 award to further her research into mechanisms that lead to neuropathy.

The two-year award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke totals more than $330,000 dollars.

Dr. Cao is focusing her research on the interactions between immune cells, glial cells in the nervous system and their interactions with nerve cells and neurons that relay and process sensory information, including abnormal and chronic pain states.

The funded work will extend her research into an animal model of distal symmetrical polyneuropathy (DSP), the most common form of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection-associated peripheral neuropathy.

By better understanding the interactions between viral infection and glial and neuronal cells, novel therapies can be developed to prevent or reverse severe chronic pain associated with HIV/AIDs.

In 2008, Dr. Cao received a $377,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the role of infiltrating CD4+ T lymphocytes in neuropathic pain initiated or caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the nervous system.

Dr. Cao is a founding member of UNE's Center of Excellence in the Neurosciences. Her research involves both medical students and undergraduates from the College of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Cao is also collaborating on this project with Dr. William R. Green's lab in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Dartmouth Medical School.

Cao received an M.D. in clinical medicine from Beijing Medical University in 1997 and a Ph.D. in toxicology from the State University of New York in Albany in 2002.  She has been at the UNE's College of Osteopathic Medicine since 2007.

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