Allan Basbaum has been a pioneer in studies of the neural basis of pain, particularly the persistent pain caused by injuries, cancer and shingles. He found that such injuries lead to extensive reorganisation of circuits in the spinal cord, which in turn make pain more intense and may even make touch feel painful.
Allan’s exploration of the roles of selected neurotransmitters, receptors and pathways, using transgenic mouse models, distinguishes pain from persistent itching. He has shown that analgesics such as morphine work by inhibiting pain transmission in the spinal cord, a mechanism that may be impaired in chronic pain sufferers.
In 2012, Allan reported that embryonic brain cells producing the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA could relieve persistent pain and hypersensitivity when transplanted into the spinal cord of mice. His work on the molecular basis of pain has identified several new targets that might form the basis of new therapies for persistent pain.
Professor and Chairman, Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco
Interests and expertise
Acute pain management,