The Basic Science division consists of faculty from the University of New Mexico’s Departments of Anesthesiology & Critical Care Medicine, Neurosciences, Neurosurgery and The College of Pharmacy, with extensive primary laboratory space located within the Department of Anesthesiology & Critical Medicine at the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine The academic group is pioneering basic and translational research studies on chronic pain, with particular focus on neuropathic pain with an underlying neuroimmune etiology.
One area of study is aimed at examining the effects of adverse in utero conditions, such as fetal alcohol exposure on the developing central nervous system (CNS), which is a collaborative effort with the Alcohol Research Training in Neuroscience program here at UNM in the Department of Neurosciences. This research in animal models examines the impact of fetal alcohol exposure that may lead to heightened glial reactivity and adult-onset chronic CNS aberrant neuroimmune signaling including peripheral neuropathy and associated allodynia (heightened sensitivity to light touch).
A different area of study examines the role of spinal subarachnoid gene delivery of the anti-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-10 (IL-10), in creating IL-10-dependent long-duration pain relief. Immune interrelated etiologies including chemotaxis, mitosis, and phagocytosis are explored in collaboration with the Keck-UNM Imaging Resource in the College of Pharmacy, directed by Dr. Norenberg.
A third area of study involves developing and characterizing novel peripheral mechanisms of chronic discogenic low back pain that include elevated ambient peripheral glutamate possibly producing chemical pro-nociceptive excitation by activating glutamate receptors expressed on dorsal root ganglia or on free nerve endings embedded in intervertebral discs.
The many areas of expertise related to these collaborative efforts (including neuropharmacology, clinical anesthesiology, molecular neuroscience, cell biology and physical therapy) have facilitated a unique research platform at the UNM Health Sciences Center, with the central goal of developing novel non-opioid based pain therapeutics, and to advance our fundamental understanding of mechanisms critical for the initiation and maintenance of chronic pain.