Molecular Physiology of Pain and Analgesia
Our laboratory is interested in the pathophysiology of chronic pain. The long-term goal is to discover novel analgesics providing effective pain relief without the serious side effects of opiates. The general approach we have taken is to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate the hyperexcitability of neuronal circuits involved in pain perception. Ion channels are key specialized membrane proteins expressed at the surface of neurons that control their responses and their synaptic communications. Modulation of the function of ion channels (voltage-gated or ligand-gated) is a powerful and efficient way to modulate neuronal excitability and synaptic plasticity in pain pathways. Over the years we have demonstrated the relevance of a number of important ion channels in pain or analgesia: P2X ATP-gated channels, ASIC proton-gated channels, TRPV1 capsaicin-gated channels, Nav1.8 and HCN voltage-gated ion channels (see our publications in PubMed).
Our multisciplinary research projects take advantage of several powerful techniques: molecular biology, histochemistry, pharmacology, electrophysiology, calcium imaging, transgenic models, quantitative behavioral analysis. We are currently focusing our efforts on the interrogation of specific genetically-identified peripheral and central neurons to probe their contribution to the circuits of chronic pain in vivo using optogenetics and chemogenetics.