Kerr Lab Projects

Chronic pain can develop in patients with the disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Because the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain) is affected in diseases like MS-this type of chronic pain is referred to as ‘central neuropathic pain’ (CNP). CNP affects nearly half of the people with MS and is incredibly distressing. The research in my laboratory addresses the cellular mechanisms that generate CNP in neuroinflammatory diseases like MS. My research uses a mouse model of autoimmune demyelination that resembles MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Our research to date has revealed that sensory neurons which reside in a structure of the peripheral nervous system known as the ‘dorsal root ganglion’ become stressed when a disease affects the spinal cord and brain. Stressed sensory neurons can begin to send inappropriate signals into the central nervous system and we hypothesize that this is a major factor that establishes CNP in diseases like MS. Our studies are examining this at a variety of levels. First, we aim to understand the specific changes that arise in a stressed sensory neuron that can cause it to function inappropriately. We are also examining several novel therapeutic strategies, including exercise, that are aimed at relieving the stress on the neurons to determine if this will restore normal function and relieve CNP.