PhD – University of Maryland (2012)
B.A. – Boston University (2006)
Office: E1457 BSTWR
200 Lothrop Street,
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
My research utilizes anatomical, behavioral, optogenetic, Ca2+Imaging, and molecular techniques as well as clinical research to investigate the role of the nervous system in regulating homeostasis as well as pathological conditions, including visceral pain and tumorigenesis.
Chronic Pancreatitis Pain. Chronic pancreatitis is complex syndrome in which many patients are deeply affected by abdominal pain. Subtypes of pain respond to different therapeutic regimens, but unfortunately there are no tools available in the clinic to guide physicians in identifying subtypes of pain. Currently, we are combining studies of clinical data with cellular, molecular, and behavioral analyses of a common model of chronic pancreatitis as well as a novel (optogenetic) model of pancreatitis pain in which there is no nerve damage. The goal of these studies is to identify biomarkers that can be used to direct development of optimized therapeutics as well as tools for clinicians to better manage chronic pancreatitis pain. Future studies will involve utilizing this novel model to tease apart the contributions of different neural circuits (e.g. vagal vs. spinal). Clinically, these studies will lead to prospective clinical trials to validate our biomarkers for treatment decision making.
Nerves and Cancer. We and others have shown that early denervation of visceral organs, particularly pancreas, dramatically retards tumorigenesis. Currently, we are using a variety of in vivo and in vitro techniques including histology, immunhistochemistr, single cell multi-spectral imaging, flow cytometry, PCR and single cell molecular analyses to test the hypothesis that neuro-immune interactions drive the microenvironment toward a pro-tumorigenic state.
Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, UPMC Hillman Developmental Funding Program, NIH