Foundation Award for Research

Paul Durham

Dr. Paul Durham

College of Natural and Applied Sciences

I. Focus of Research

A major goal of my research is to provide a better understanding of migraine and TMJ (jaw joint) pathology to facilitate the development of novel therapies to treat these painful, debilitating diseases. My diverse research interests include identifying novel nutraceutical products for inhibiting inflammation and pain in novel models of migraine and TMJ pathology, investigating the role of the gut microbiome in chronic pain conditions, testing novel anti-epileptic drugs, and determining how vagal nerve stimulation functions to abort migraine attacks.  A primary focus of my research has been to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which inflammatory agents and novel anti-inflammatory therapies regulate expression of a small protein known as CGRP, or calcitonin gene-related peptide.  Levels of CGRP are elevated during migraine and temporomandibular joint (jaw) disorders (TMD), and the levels directly correlate with the level of reported pain.  Research from my laboratory has demonstrated the important role of glial cells in the underlying pathology of diseases involving the head and face.  We recently published results on the use of a novel holding device (Durham Animal Holder) for studying nocifensive responses to mechanical and thermal stimulation of trigeminal nerves that is now sold by Ugo Basile.

II. Major Projects

Summary of Major Grants and Contracts  July 2010 – December 2015 (only ones >50K)
Total number of grants and contracts ~100 (60 service contracts)

  • Self Detox Polymer Sys   2010
  • Episodic Migraine Attacks  2010
  • Menstural Migraine  2011
  • MK4305  2011
  • Wound Healing  2011
  • Corneal Wound Repair  2011
  • Menstural Migraine  2011
  • Rizatriptan & MK-8825  2011
  • Hippocampal and Cortical Tissues  2012
  • Tonabersat on Expression of Connexins  2012
  • Rizatriptan & MK-8825  2012
  • MOA for Tonabersat Task 7  2013
  • Task 1 Plant Extracts  2013
  • Differ DHE from Triptans Allergan 2014
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder 2015
  • Chicken Broth Task 10 2015

III. Future Directions of Research

We will continue to investigate the role of CGRP in the underlying pathology of migraine and jaw joint (TMJ) disorders so that we can better understand how to treat these chronic disorders.  I will be applying for grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH - both R15s, which are AREA grants awarded to institutions primarily focused on education and RO1s, which are competitive grants typically awarded to research oriented universities), migraine and other research foundations, as well as nutritional and pharmaceutical companies.  In addition, I will pursue funding opportunities in the form of service agreements and task agreements that have greatly facilitated funding from companies not willing to share intellectual property.  I believe that relying on multiple sources of funding will allow our laboratory to continue to obtain external research grants and contracts to investigate the potential of novel therapeutics for maintaining and improving human health.  A major focus of our laboratory will remain in the area of molecular and cellular neuroscience with an emphasis on studying the transition from acute to chronic pain and the role of inflammation pathways in human disease including epilepsy.  We will continue to utilize both in vitro (cell lines and primary cells) and in vivo studies in animals to facilitate our understanding of disease processes associated with migraine, TMJ disorders, and epilepsy.  We were included on a NIH small business research grant submitted by Tansna Pharmaceuticals to investigate the molecular mechanisms of novel anti-epileptic drugs.  Recently, we have initiated studies in the area of microbiology to study bacteria resistance to silver metal and antibiotics as well as studying changes in the microbiota of the gut in response to chronic pain.  I believe this area of research will remain very active over the next several years given the recent published evidence of the importance of specific types of bacteria in the human gut in maintaining health and causing diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and chronic joint inflammation and pain.  I will continue to use the skills and talents of our graduate and undergraduate students on these projects since our laboratory setting provides a dynamic environment for students to engage in translational research.  Given the talent of our students and staff, I am confident that we will continue to pioneer new technologies, discover new methods, and patent new methods to treat and modify progression of diseases involving inflammation mediated by neurons and glial cells.  I intend to disseminate our findings by presenting our research at international scientific meetings, writing primary papers, and authoring review articles on select topics.

IV. Topics related to your research and of interest to the broad University Community, for which you are available for presentations and/or consultations.

  • Migraine – triggers, mechanisms, new treatments
  • Jaw joint (TMJ) disorders and orofacial pain:  mechanism and current treatments
  • Orofacial pain
  • The use of natural products (nutraceuticals) to treat disease
  • Role of the gut microbiota in health and disease including correlation to chronic pain states (why what you eat really does matter)