Allan Basbaum, PhD

Professor & Chair
Department of Anatomy
+1 415 476-4311
Research Description: 

Our laboratory examines the mechanisms through which tissue and nerve injury produce changes in the peripheral and central nervous system, resulting in persistent pain. In parallel studies we are examining the circuits through which pruritogens generate itch. These studies follow upon our recent work that defined mechanisms through which opioids that act at different receptor subtypes exert their pain relieving effects. The hallmark of our work is our laboratory’s multidisciplinary approach to the problem, using molecular, neuroanatomical, pharmacological and behavioral analyses in wild type and genetically modified mice. Many of these mice, including knockouts and Cre- or reporter-expressing mice are generated in our laboratory. To expand our analyses using our transgenic mouse in which wheat germ agglutinin transneuronal labeling of complex circuits can be triggered from neurons in any region of the brain or spinal cord, we now incorporate transneuronal anterograde (herpes) and retrograde (rabies) viral tracers in our circuit analyses. By combining these studies with the functional properties of the label neurons, these studies will examine the extent to which pain and itch circuits are segregated or convergent at the level of spinal cord interneurons and projection neurons. Most recently, we turned our attention to the possibility of overcoming the neurological consequences of peripheral nerve damage, by transplanting embryonic cortical GABAergic precursor cells into the spinal cord. We have demonstrated that the cells integrate into the host and can ameliorate the persistent pain and itch associated with nerve damage.

Primary Thematic Area: 
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Research Summary: 
The Neurological Basis of Pain and Its Control



Structures of the σ2 receptor enable docking for bioactive ligand discovery.


Alon A, Lyu J, Braz JM, Tummino TA, Craik V, O'Meara MJ, Webb CM, Radchenko DS, Moroz YS, Huang XP, Liu Y, Roth BL, Irwin JJ, Basbaum AI, Shoichet BK, Kruse AC

Regulatory T-cells inhibit microglia-induced pain hypersensitivity in female mice.


Kuhn J, Vainchtein ID, Braz JM, Hamel K, Bernstein M, Craik V, Dahlgren MW, Ortiz-Carpena J, Molofsky A, Molofsky A, Basbaum A

Pain and itch processing by subpopulations of molecularly diverse spinal and trigeminal projection neurons.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Wercberger R, Braz JM, Weinrich JA, Basbaum AI

Contribution of dorsal horn CGRP-expressing interneurons to mechanical sensitivity.


Löken LS, Braz JM, Etlin A, Sadeghi M, Bernstein M, Jewell M, Steyert M, Kuhn J, Hamel K, Llewellyn-Smith IJ, Basbaum A

TMEM16C is involved in thermoregulation and protects rodent pups from febrile seizures.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Wang TA, Chen C, Huang F, Feng S, Tien J, Braz JM, Basbaum AI, Jan YN, Jan LY