Reza Sharif-Naeini (Award in Pain Recipient) earned his Ph.D. in physiology from McGill University in 2007, and returned there to joined the faculty in 2012. In the interim, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Institut Pharmacologie Moleculare et Cellulaire in Nice, France, and in the Department of Anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco. He has received fellowships from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the International Association for the Study of Pain and the Human Frontier Science Program. He has also received the CIHR Brain Star Award for excellence in research and the Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award in Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience.
Chronic neuropathic pain (NeP) is a debilitating disease that follows nerve injury and persists long after the initial injury has subsided. Despite the plethora of medications and treatment modalities, NeP remains a disease with unmet medical needs that significantly decreases patients’ quality of life. Spontaneous pain and mechanical allodynia, two hallmarks of NeP, are due in part to a spinal cord dysfunction characterized by a decrease in inhibitory neurotransmission (or inhibitory tone). Our understanding of how these inhibitory mechanisms function in health and disease remains, however, limited. This indicates a need for novel and innovative experimental approaches to gain a better understanding of inhibitory circuits in the dorsal horn and how changes in these circuits can precipitate NeP symptoms. Sharif-Naeini’s group is interested in understanding the function of these inhibitory pathways using transgenic mouse lines combined with opto/pharmacogenetic approaches.