Credentials: VMD, PhD
Position title: University of Wisconsin-Madison KURe Program
Website: Institutional Profile
Dr. Crawford is an Assistant Professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Patholbiological Sciences. Her mentors are Drs. Dale Bjorling and Chad Vezina.
Dr. Crawford’s research focuses on chronic pain. Chronic pain associated with urologic disease affects millions of people in the U. S. alone, yet is exceedingly challenging to treat. There is an unmet therapeutic need that extends beyond the opioid crisis, as many existing therapies often lead to addiction, cause unwanted side effects, or prove inadequate for managing pain in many patients. Deficits in the ability to diagnose or effectively treat pain patients stem from a lack of understanding of pain mechanisms; this is particularly true for bladder pain. For example, in interstitial cystitis, it is still unknown what causes pain symptoms and why comorbid disease in other organ systems is so frequent. Recent studies indicate that many patients with bladder disease have comorbid changes in somatosensory neurons that are diagnostic for neuropathic pain. This suggests that somatosensory neurons may play a role in referred pain, challenging the existing dogma that referred somatic pain is due to spinal cord mechanisms. Somato-visceral crosstalk within the peripheral nervous system comprises a substantial gap in our knowledge of bladder pain mechanisms. Dr. Crawford’s research will test the hypothesis that there is peripherally-mediated crosstalk between somatosensory and bladder sensory neurons that contributes to comorbid pain in distinct organs systems and provides a mechanism for dysregulation of bladder function. To test this hypothesis, she will determine the cell type-specific molecular, anatomic, and neurophysiologic underpinnings of somato-visceral crosstalk in mouse models of cystitis and hindlimb nerve injury. This project will optimize an innovative neurophysiology approach, provide experience in transcriptomics, and develop Dr. Crawford’s expertise in biomarkers of bladder pain, propelling her career as a clinician-scientist. Her findings will have significant benefits for urologic disease research by highlighting potential diagnostic features of comorbidities in bladder pain patients and providing a mechanistic rationale to guide selection of existing anti-pain therapies as well as development of novel therapeutics.