Research Focus Area:
Prevention, Health Disparities
Type of Research:
Research Interest Statement:
The activity of primary sensory neurons is critical for the development and maintenance of persistent pain states. Following peripheral injury, primary sensory neurons show complex activity-dependent plasticity as a result of prolonged noxious stimuli and ectopic discharges. This altered activity in the primary sensory neurons is transmitted to spinal dorsal horn neurons and ultimately to the brain which results in persistent pain in a proportion of patients. While genetic studies have advanced our knowledge of nociceptive pathways, our current understanding does not explain variations in the susceptibility of individuals to the development of this cancer-related persistent pain. Common genetic variations in pain phenotypes show inconsistencies across studies6 and have not facilitated the development of new treatments. Epigenetic variations within the genome are known to cause misregulation of protein at a cellular level which may modulate nociception. My long term goal is to determine the contribution of epigenetic pathways to enhanced pain sensitivity and the establishment of cancer-related persistent pain. Specific research questions that I’m eager to explore include (1) the association between altered chromatin structure in the dorsal root ganglion and cancer-related pain, and (2) cell-type specific changes in chromatin accessibility associated with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.
Renfro Z, White BE, Stephens KE. CCAAT enhancer binding protein gamma (C/EBP-?): An understudied transcription factor. Advances in biological regulation. 2022 84:100861. PMID: 35121409.
Stephens KE, Zhou W, Renfro Z, [et al.]. Global gene expression and chromatin accessibility of the peripheral nervous system in animal models of persistent pain. Journal of neuroinflammation. 2021 18(1):185. PMID: 34446036. PMCID: PMC8390277.
Rizzardi LF, Hickey PF, Idrizi A, [et al., including Stephens KE]. Human brain region-specific variably methylated regions are enriched for heritability of distinct neuropsychiatric traits. Genome biology. 2021 22(1):116. PMID: 33888138. PMCID: PMC8061076.
Sivanesan E, Stephens KE, Huang Q, [et al.]. Spinal cord stimulation prevents paclitaxel-induced mechanical and cold hypersensitivity and modulates spinal gene expression in rats. Pain reports. 2019 4(5):e785. PMID: 31875188. PMCID: PMC6882571.
Stephens KE, Zhou W, Ji Z, [et al.]. Sex differences in gene regulation in the dorsal root ganglion after nerve injury. BMC genomics. 2019 20(1):147. PMID: 30782122. PMCID: PMC6381758.
Tiwari V, Anderson M, Yang F, [et al., including Stephens KE]. Peripherally Acting ?-Opioid Receptor Agonists Attenuate Ongoing Pain-associated Behavior and Spontaneous Neuronal Activity after Nerve Injury in Rats. Anesthesiology. 2018 128(6):1220-1236. PMID: 29601322. PMCID: PMC5953805.
Yang F, Anderson M, He S, [et al., including Stephens K]. Differential expression of voltage-gated sodium channels in afferent neurons renders selective neural block by ionic direct current. Science advances. 2018 4(4):eaaq1438. PMID: 29651458. PMCID: PMC5895440.
Stephens KE, Chen Z, Sivanesan E, [et al.]. RNA-seq of spinal cord from nerve-injured rats after spinal cord stimulation. Molecular pain. 2018 14:1744806918817429. PMID: 30451078. PMCID: PMC6293371.
Stephens KE, Levine JD, Aouizerat BE, [et al.]. Associations between genetic and epigenetic variations in cytokine genes and mild persistent breast pain in women following breast cancer surgery. Cytokine. 2017 99:203-213. PMID: 28764974. PMCID: PMC5675785.
Funk M, Fennie KP, Stephens KE, [et al.]. Association of Implementation of Practice Standards for Electrocardiographic Monitoring With Nurses' Knowledge, Quality of Care, and Patient Outcomes: Findings From the Practical Use of the Latest Standards of Electrocardiography (PULSE) Trial. Circulation. Cardiovascular quality and outcomes. 2017 10(2). PMID: 28174175. PMCID: PMC5341740.
Su Z, Wang F, Stephens KE, [et al.]. Reader domain specificity and lysine demethylase-4 family function. Nature communications. 2016 7:13387. PMID: 27841353. PMCID: PMC5114558.