Qiufu Ma, Ph.D.


We are interested in investigating the molecular mechanisms that govern the formation and function of pain sensory neurons. In mammals, painful sensory information is detected by a specialized group of sensory neurons called nociceptors. These neurons express a diverse array of ion channels and receptors that underlie the initial reaction to noxious thermal, chemical, and mechanical stimuli. Under pathological conditions - such as inflammation, nerve injuries, or cancer cell invasion - nociceptors can be sensitized, resulting in persistent chronic pain disorders. Few effective medicines are available for neuropathic pain, and over 45% of cancer patients in the United States suffer untreatable pain. A major goal of our research is to understand how distinct classes of nociceptors are specified during development and how nociceptors come to be sensitized during pathological conditions, with the ultimate goal of developing new therapeutic targets for pain treatment.

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