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Imlach Lab research

CollaborationsStudent research projects | Publications

About Associate Professor Wendy Imlach

I obtained my PhD at the University of Otago and held postdoctoral positions at Columbia University, the University of Queensland and the University of Sydney. I am currently a Group Leader in Neuroscience in the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and the Department of Physiology and a NHMRC Career Development Fellow.

My research focuses on changes that happen within the pain processing pathways in the spinal cord following the development of chronic pain. Some of these changes are potential therapeutic targets and I am interested in finding new, more effective ways to treat chronic pain.


Our research

Current projects

  1. Decoding dysfunctional spinal cord circuitry in chronic pain.
  2. Identifying novel molecular targets for treating chronic pain.
  3. Characterization of interneuron subtypes in pain pathways.
  4. Allosteric modulation of adenosine A1 receptors for the treatment of chronic pain.
  5. Mechanisms of itch - from endosomal signalling to neural circuits.

Visit Associate Professor Imlach's Monash research profile to see a full listing of current projects.

Research activities

Chronic pain is a major global health burden, affecting nearly 20% of the Australian population. This condition results in hypersensitivity to sensory input so non-painful stimuli can become painful. Analgesics that are currently in use provide relief in a small proportion of chronic pain patients and there is a great need for more effective therapeutics.

Our lab investigates changes in neuron signalling that happen in pain circuits during the development of chronic pain. Some of these changes can be targeted therapeutically, so the aim of our work is to identify pathological changes and find ways to modify them for the treatment of pain. To understand pain circuitry and to characterize potential analgesics, we use patch-clamp electrophysiology, optogenetics and calcium imagining in brain and spinal cord tissue from animal models. We also use immunohistochemistry and confocal imaging, behavioural assays and genetic profiling.

Figure 1: Spinal cord dorsal horn with inset showing an interneuron that is part of a pain circuit.
Electrophysiological trace in blue shows spontaneous firing of this neuron.

Figure 2: Following the development of chronic pain we can see changes in synaptic signalling throughout the spinal cord
pain pathways. Some of these changes are potential therapeutic targets. We use patch-clamp electrophysiology
and electrical and optogenetic activation to investigate signalling properties.


Techniques/expertise

  • Patch-clamp electrophysiology
  • Ex vivo optogenetic neuronal activation
  • Behavioural assays
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Imaging.

Disease models

Pain models:

  • Neuropathic (nerve-injury) pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Inflammatory pain
  • Diabetic neuropathy.

Collaborations

We collaborate with many scientists and research organisations around the world. Some of our more significant national and international collaborators are listed below. Click on the map to see the details for each of these collaborators (dive into specific publications and outputs by clicking on the dots).

Professor Yves De Koninck, Laval University, Canada
Dr Nigel Bunnett, Columbia University, USA
Professor Arthur Christopoulos, Monash University
Professor David Spanswick, Neurosolutions, UK
Associate Professor Irina Vetter, University of Queensland


Student research projects

The Imlach Lab offers a variety of Honours, Masters and PhD projects for students interested in joining our group. There are also a number of short term research opportunities available.

Please visit Supervisor Connect to explore the projects currently available in our Lab.