The lab I’ve been working in has an overarching focus on pain signaling and sensory plasticity, which covers the wide range of interests of all of the lab members. Working in Dr. Ji’s lab has made me appreciate the complexity of pain, from the different types, like chronic vs acute, to the vast amount of biological and molecular pathways involved. The sheer amount of research being done and research that still has to be done is close to overwhelming, but working with my research mentor, Dr. Junli Zhao, has helped me focus in on a specific area that I can contribute to. Dr. Zhao primarily studies the PD-1 gene and its various roles, especially in pain signaling.
My project builds off of previous research conducted by the lab as a whole, and observations made by Dr. Zhao. We are examining the impact of the gene encoding the programmed cell death protein 1, or PD-1, on chronic pain-induced anxiety and depression, as well as cognition. The primary methods we are using are mouse models, in which we will first induce a chronic pain condition using a spared nerve injury, or SNI, then use a wide variety of behavioral tests to measure the anxiety and depression levels in the mice, as well as their pain levels and cognitive abilities. We will also examine the expression of PD-1 in the brain, particularly the amygdala, which has been found to play a role in anxiety and depression. This examination of PD-1 expression will be conducted through the use of immunohistochemistry and RNAscope.