Pioneering a new technique to study migraine headaches.

Carolina Burgos-Vega and the University of Texas at Dallas is pioneering a new technique for stimulating the meninges in order to study the pathophysiology of migraine headache. Migraine headache is the most prevalent neurological disorder but the pathophysiology contributing to the development and progression of the condition is not well understood. Current pharmacological treatments are inadequate at managing the complex symptomology experienced by migraine sufferers and thus new therapeutics are needed. Increasing amounts of evidence suggest that nociceptor activation in the meninges plays a role in migraine pain. Identification of mechanisms leading to activation/sensitization of these neurons may provide targets for novel migraine therapeutics. Previous work in rat models of migraine pain has found that stimulation of the dura produces afferent input to the central nervous system leading to headache-like behaviors (cutaneous allodynia). However, development of a mouse model of headache using dural stimulation would allow the use of genetic tools for target identification that do not exist in rats.

Hamilton Neuros syringes will allow them to inject onto the surface of the meninges (dura) of mice, using the cranial suture junction as an entry point. At 8 weeks of age the suture junctions are not fused therefore with a controlled penetration depth and no dead space of volume will allow for the precision needed to preserve the integrity of the tissue. Unlike previous studies conducted in rats we will not utilize a cannula, which requires substantial recovery.  The Neuros line of syringes will allow them to change the needle depth based on the size and weight of animals. Thus customization is based of the animal itself and conducted by the experimenter.

What makes the University of Texas at Dallas laboratory unique is the number of students that they mentor. At any given time they will have upwards of 30 undergraduate students working within the lab. The other graduate students take pride in the innovation and inspiration that introducing so many new students to the research community brings.  They can see themselves in the young minds and strive to cultivate success both for their personal and professional growth, as well as their own. Many of their students have gone off to professional or graduate school, with some even deciding to stay in Neuroscience.

They hope that by exposing undergraduates to their migraine studies they can instill in our future leaders the the value of preclinical research, while also engaging and empowering students through hands-on learning in the lab.