Foundation Award for Research

Paul Durham

Paul Durham

Biology
College of Natural and Applied Sciences

I. Focus of Research

My long-term interest lies in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in neuron- glia interactions that promote and sustain chronic peripheral and central sensitization in orofacial pain diseases such as migraine and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).  A primary goal of my research is to determine the signaling pathways by which inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agents control gene expression in disorders involving the trigeminal nerve.  In addition, I am studying the effects of nutraceutical compounds on neuronal-glia interactions to identify novel biological compounds that inhibit inflammatory pathways, and am investigating the mechanism of action of cannabidiol and noninvasive transdermal vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS) in clinically relevant models of episodic and chronic migraine, and TMD pathology.  I also am studying the connection between a healthy brain and a healthy gut using next generation sequencing to determine changes in the bacteria residing in the digestive system and oral cavity in response to prolonged inflammatory conditions (acute to chronic pain), early life stress, and alterations in diet and use of antibiotics.  Another focus of our research has been in understanding the cellular mechanisms by which inclusion of grape seed extract as a dietary supplement functions to block pain signaling in migraine and TMD.

II. Major Projects

  • Investigation of Mechanism of Action of Noninvasive Vagus Nerve Stimulation, 2016–2020

  • Study of Role of CGRP Monoclonal Antibodies in a Model of Chronic Migraine, 2019–2020

  • Towards a Better Understanding of TMD Pathology, 2018–2021

  • Study of Beneficial Effects of Grape Seed Extract, 2016–2020

  • Investigating Role of Novel Anti-Migraine Therapeutics, 2016–2020

III. Future Directions of Research

Moving forward, a major emphasis of our research will focus on determining the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which sleep deprivation, neck muscle tension, and early life stress cause sensitization of the trigeminal system and promote migraine and TMD pathology.  We will continue to study new therapeutics for their ability to block pain signaling in models of chronic migraine and TMD since there is a great need for more effective and safer therapies for managing these painful conditions.

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 - pathology and new treatment options

  • TMD (TMJ pain) - pathology and new treatment options

  • Nutrition - how dietary changes can inhibit pain signaling and brain function

  • Epigenetics - how lifestyle and environment influence gene expression and disease progression in migraine and TMD (most diseases)