Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care: School of Medicine: University of California, Irvine

Basic Science & Translational Research

Basic Science Research

Professors within the Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative oversee several laboratories throughout UC Irvine and its affiliates. The department is committed to research excellence and has dedicated an immense amount of time and resources that advance our understanding of anesthesia and the brain, pain pathways, and spinal cord injury.

Areas of Interest
Michael Alkire, MD Peter Breen, MD, FRCPC
Catherine Cahill, PhD Z. David Luo, MD, PhD
Sean Ostlund, PhD

Neuroimaging, Consciousness, & Anesthesia

Dr. Alkire ReserachDr. Michael Alkire and his lab work to investigate the mechanisms of anesthetic action on learning, memory, consciousness and pain processing. Neuroimaging technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and high-density electroencephalography (EEG), as well as small animal experimentation are used to identify and experimentally manipulate various key sites of anesthetic action in the brain. Dr. Alkire is the principle investigator on several grants to further this end.

Using brain imaging as a tool to understand anesthetic-induced unconsciousness, Dr. Alkire brings an international reputation to the Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care. He has discovered that intra-thalamic microinfusions of nicotine blocks the unconsciousness producing aspect of anesthesia and allows an animal to wake up and move around within a chamber filled with anesthetic.

Genetics & Spinal Control of Pain Perception

Dr. Luo Research

Dr. Z. David Luo’s research interests focus on molecular mechanisms of chronic pain. Dr. Luo and his team are studying how chronic pain inducing conditions, such as peripheral nerve injury, bone cancer and spinal cord injury, induce changes in gene expression in sensory pathways that lead to changes in pain perception.

Two approaches are utilized in Dr. Luo’s research. First, they use gene chip analysis to compare gene expression profiles between control and experimental tissue samples, taken from pathological conditions associated with abnormal sensations, to identify genes that may be the molecular determinants of specific nociceptive states and serve as targets for the development of more specific and safer analgesics.

Pain Research: Methods and Protocols by Z. David Luo, MD, PhDTheir second approach is to study how altered target gene expression contributes to spinal sensitization, a central mechanism of abnormal sensations. Briefly, they use behavioral pharmacology, cellular and molecular biology and immunohistochemistry techniques to study how these genes are regulated under pain-inducing conditions, and how these changes contribute to abnormal sensation development and maintenance. Finally, Dr. Luo’s team is developing and validating novel interventions for chronic pain management.

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Gas Kinetics & Metabolism

Dr. Peter Breen investigates gas kinetics and metabolism during non-steady state in anesthesia, including non-steady-state carbon dioxide kinetics and the more general gas kinetics in anesthesia during non-steady state. His studies explored and tested hypotheses of gas exchange, metabolism, and the state of “tissue wellness” during non-steady-state conditions in anesthesia and critical care medicine. Experiments included bench simulations, computer modeling, and clinical studies. These studies stimulated collaborations and consultations with information and computer science, pulmonary and critical care medicine, and the department of mathematics. Other areas of Dr. Breen’s research programs include the study of the pathophysiology and treatment of combined carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning and studies of respiratory mechanics.

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