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Michael E. O'Leary, PhD

Contact Dr. O'Leary

1020 Locust Street
Jefferson Alumni Hall, Suite 265
Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 503-9983

Medical School

PhD, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics - 1987

University Appointment

Associate Professor

Research and Clinical Interests

Sensory nerve fibers originate in the dorsal root ganglion and produce long branches that terminate in peripheral tissues. The termini of these sensory neurons elaborate specialized membrane bound proteins that convert mechanical, thermal, and chemical stimuli into electrical signals that are transmitted along the sensory nerve fibers back to the spinal cord. Included in these sensory nerve fibers are subsets of unmyelinated fibers that predominately respond to painful stimuli. These nociceptive nerve fibers are the initial link in the pain-sensing pathway. The research in my laboratory utilizes a combination of electrophysiology and molecular biology to investigate the mechanisms of sensory neuron transduction and the propagation of electrical signals along nociceptive nerve fibers. To do this we developed novel methodologies that permit electrical recording and genetic screening of individual sensory neurons. Quantitative analysis of the mRNA transcripts expressed in single nociceptors enables us to correlate the electrical properties with the specific proteins expressed in these neurons. Using this approach we have identified voltage-gated ion channels that are uniquely expressed in nociceptors. The long-term goal of our studies is to identify the ligand- and voltage-gated ion channels expressed in nociceptors. These findings will enhance our understanding of nociceptor function and guide the development of novel strategies for treating acute and chronic pain.