Spinal Cord Research Award funded by Decima Strachan and Claire Lilia Wooton Estates
Novel pain pathway in human spinal cord.
Dr Rainer Haberberger
Co-Investigators: Mr Ian Gibbins and Robyn Flook
Our pulmonary neurobiology group has two major areas of interest.
- The perception of pain is signalled from the periphery to the central nervous system via unmyelinated or light myelinated nerve fibres (nociceptive fibres) that originate from sensory neurons situated within dorsal root ganglia (DRG). The central projections of these neurons terminate within different laminae of the dorsal horn of the spinal cord.
We are interested in the function of these peripheral nociceptive neurons in health and disease. In the last years we could demonstrate that nociceptive neurons express multiple receptor subtypes specific for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and that activation of the receptors is able to modulate the intracellular calcium concentration within the nociceptors as well as the threshold for painful stimuli. Currently, we are interested in the function of sphingolipids and their influence on the pain processing in peripheral nociceptors and in spinal cord.
- Neural monitoring of the internal environment of the lung is essential for airway function and survival of terrestrial animals. Sensory neurons serve here as the input elements of a complex brain network, which integrates the regulation of airway smooth muscle tone during the control of ventilation. We are also interested in how the peripheral lung function is regulated by sensory DRG neurons, and how the neural sensory systems might be involved in the lung inflammation. Up to now we were able to demonstrate that the lung is in addition to the vagus nerve also innervated by DRG neurons and could neurochemically characterize lung projecting neurons.