Allan I. Basbaum

University of California, San Francisco


Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member (elected 2019)

Biosketch

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Allan Basbaum received his BSc from McGill University and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.  After postdoctoral research at the University College London and then at the University California San Francisco he was appointed to the faculty of UCSF, where he is presently professor and Chair of the Department of Anatomy. His research addresses the molecular mechanisms that underlie the generation of persistent pain after tissue or nerve injury. Most recently, his laboratory has focused on novel approaches to overcoming the neurological consequences of peripheral nerve damage, by transplanting embryonic cortical inhibitory precursor cells into the spinal cord. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of PAIN, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain. He served as Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the Intergovernmental Pain Research Coordinating Committee and was recently appointed to the NINDS Council. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and is a fellow of the Royal Society in the United Kingdom.

Research Interests

After several years studying the CNS circuits through which opioids exert their analgesic effects, our laboratory now examines the mechanisms through which tissue and nerve injury produce changes in the peripheral and central nervous system that result in persistent pain. In parallel studies we examine the circuits through which pruritogens generate itch. The hallmark of our work is a multidisciplinary approach to the problem, using molecular, neuroanatomical, pharmacological and behavioral analyses in wild type and genetically-modified mice, including knockouts and Cre- or reporter-expressing mice generated in our laboratory. By combining these studies with an analysis of the functional properties of molecularly-defined neurons, our studies examine the extent to which pain and itch circuits segregate or converge at the level of spinal cord interneurons and projection neurons. In recent studies, we turned our attention to the possibility of overcoming the neurological consequences of peripheral nerve damage, by transplanting embryonic cortical GABAergic precursor cells into the spinal cord. We have demonstrated that the cells integrate synaptically and functionally into host neural circuits and can ameliorate the persistent pain and itch associated with nerve damage. Very recently, we have significantly expanded the scope of our studies. We are now using calcium imaging of cortical neurons in awake mice to examine the brain circuits and mechanisms through which pain and itch percepts are generated.

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