Newsletter Written by Mac Students
After Mac: Research Fellow, National Institutes of Health
Chronic pain is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. The perception of pain is valuable in that it signals a problem or protects us from harm, e.g., touching a hot stove or running with a broken leg. However, pain can detract significantly from quality of life, as in cases of arthritis, fibromyalgia, and diabetic neuropathy. Therapeutics seek to control this “out of control” pain, but it is not currently successful against all types of pain. Even where painkillers are relatively successful, there are many problems associated with their use—not the least of which are tolerance buildup, addiction, and toxicity.
“My first-year course introduced me to the elegant and extremely complex network that is the central nervous system.”
Research in Professor Lin Aanonsen’s neuropharmacology lab seeks to circumvent some of these well-known problems with current analgesics. My project attempted to use siRNA and genetic approaches to locally knock down the production of two enzymes that we hypothesize to be involved in the processing of the pain signal before it reaches the brain.
Before Macalester, I had minimal coursework in the natural sciences and no lab experience. My chosen first-year course was called Biological Basis of Therapeutics. That class introduced me to the elegant and extremely complex network that is the central nervous system.
I continued taking biology to learn more about the nervous system and subsequently discovered a deep appreciation for chemistry and scientific exploration in general. The professors at Mac have been invaluable in helping me discover interests I never knew I had, and now I am a research fellow with the National Institutes of Health.