Basic research on pain mechanisms
Dr. Ma is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University and a researcher at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute. She is a productive basic scientist. She has pursued pain research for more than 15 years. Dr. Ma has made great progress in understanding the role of neuropeptides in nociception, neuropathic pain, and opiate tolerance and published numerous articles in this area. Recently, she has shifted her research interest to understanding the role of inflammatory mediators in the pathogenesis of chronic pain. She is using multidisciplinary approaches in both in vivo and in vitro models to address research issues at behavioural, cellular, and molecular levels. She is currently focusing on uncovering the contribution of invading macrophage-derived COX2/PGE2 in injured nerves to facilitating the synthesis of pain-related molecules, such as neuropeptides, growth factors, and cytokines, in nociceptive primary sensory neurons and invading macrophages following nerve injury. This line of her research has been funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr. Ma’s second research interest is in unravelling the role of PGE2 EP receptor trafficking in nociception and in pathological pain states. Modulation of EP receptor trafficking could be a potential therapeutic avenue to treat both acute and chronic pain. Her third research interest is exploring the role of ß-amyloid peptide in nociception. ß-amyloid is well known for its role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer`s disease. ß-amyloid is also present in small size primary sensory neurons, suggesting that it may play a role in nociception. The levels of ß-amyloid are elevated in the elderly, who are more prone to suffer from various chronic pain conditions. Dr. Ma is interested in the research questions of whether ß-amyloid is involved in nociception and whether it contributes to the chronic pain conditions prevalent in the elderly.