Investigative Basic Research
Dr. Robert LaMotte and Dr. Chao Ma are both involved in studying the basic mechanisms of neural transduction. Dr. Ma facuses primarily on mechanisms of pain, particularly as related to immune-mediated chronic pain syndromes. Dr. LaMotte's work focuses on the mechanisms of both pain and itch. Research in our basic science labs has focused on the actions of anesthetics and analgesics on sensory neurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. During the last few years we have turned our attention to the analgesic activity of opioids administered into peripheral tissues and most recently to the pharmacology and physiology of the sensation of itch.
There are thought to be many similarities between itch and pain, including similar neurophysiology and some common pharmacology. Itch is a significant clinical problem but one for which there is little that can be done at present. We continue our work to examine anti-itch properties of a series of compounds that are being tested in a recently validated animal behavioral model for itch. We are also pursuing collaborative studies focused on the types of primary afferents that convey information about itch from the periphery to the central nervous system. Our current focus in that area is on identifying relationships between contents of mast cells that may be able to initiate the sensation of itch.