Research / Research Director
Professor and V.K. Stoelting Vice Chair of Anesthesia
BA, Psychology, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, OH (1985)
MS, Pathology, Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, OH (1989)
PhD, Neurobiology, Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, OH (1994)
Postdoctoral, Washington University, St. Louis, MO (1994-1998)
Postdoctoral, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA (1998-1999)
The focus of the White Lab is the peripheral nervous system and the biology of the primary afferent neuron. Primary afferent neurons transduce and convey somatic sensation (touch, pressure, temperature, [warm or cold], pain [including itch and tickle] and proprioception) from peripheral target tissues (skin, muscle, viscera) to the spinal cord dorsal horn. The long-term goal of my research program is to understand the mechanisms, at the cellular and molecular level, by which primary afferent neurons function under both normal conditions and following peripheral nerve injury or disease. Research avenues directed at this goal have included axon guidance cues, neurotrophic factors, programmed cell death, heat shock proteins and most recently, cytokines and chemokines.
Damage to peripheral nerves following trauma or disease has a number of consequences including the emergence of neuropathic pain. Commonly, neuropathic pain sufferers experience spontaneous burning pain in and radiating from the area innervated by the damaged nerves, and an exquisite sensitivity to light touch stimuli, which are now perceived as painful. These neuropathic pains are often refractory to conventional analgesic therapy, with most patients obtaining at best only partial relief. Unfortunately, neuropathic pains are frequently also very persistent and do not resolve with time. Thus, neuropathic pain is often an extremely debilitating condition with a bleak outlook. Our research focus is on the pathophysiological and neural-immune mechanisms linking injury to the peripheral nervous system with structural and chemical alterations in the central nervous system causing neuropathic pain.