Deciphering sensory circuits - Identification of the neuronal populations that transmit and regulate pain and itch

Time period: 2014-01-01 to 2018-12-31

Project leader: Malin Lagerström

Funder: Ragnar Söderberg Foundation

Type of award: Project grant

Total fundning: 8 000 000 SEK

The aim of this application is to define the neuronal circuit of sensory signaling. The projects focuses on identifying the role of subpopulations of spinal cord dorsal horn interneurons and primary afferent neurons in sensory transmission to be able to restore the function of this network in diseased states, for instance chronic pain and itch. More specifically the plan aims to: (1) Clarify how pain and itch signaling are transmitted and regulated from the periphery. (2) Find and visualize the neronal populations that regulate pain and itch signaling in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord both in freeely moving mice, using optogenetics, and real time, in vivo, using two-photon microscopy. We are especially interested in neurons that enable interaction between somatosensory stimuli; touch, pain and itch, i.e. the gate of sensory transmission. The goals will be achieved both through clinical and preclinical approaches. We have previously identified the subpopulations of primary afferent neurons and the main neurotransmittor that mediate heat, mechanical pain and inflammatory pain from the periphery to the spinal cord. We are now focusing on the regulatory interneurons in the spinal cord to identify neuronal populations and molecules with specific roles in sensory transmission that can be therapeutically targeted to improve the current insufficient treatment of chronic pain and itch.