Qiufu Ma
Qiufu Ma, PhD
Professor of Neurobiology

Our lab focuses on two lines of research: mapping pain pathways and exploring how acupuncture works. During the past decade, we have been using genetic tools, electrophysiological recordings, and novel behavioral assays to characterize spinal pathways that transmit clinically relevant pain. One key achievement is the identification of spinal neurons that transmit pain evoked by dynamic skin touch, one of most bothersome  forms of pain suffered by patients with nerve injury. More recently, we revealed spinal pathways that drive sustained affective pain caused by severe body injury (e.g., skin burn injury). Importantly, loss of these clinically relevant forms of pain is not detected by reflex-based assays commonly used by the pain field for decades—partly explaining poor translation from preclinical studies to new pain medicines. Currently, the lab is characterizing neural pathways transmitting pain from muscles, bones and visceral organs. Though prevalent and difficult to treat, this type of deep tissue pain is still understudied.

Another insight from past decades’ studies is the realization that there are many redundant neural pathways and mechanisms that can drive pain, making it difficult to develop effective drugs by targeting specific pathways or molecules. A core wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine practices, such as acupuncture, deals with the root of diseases (e.g., inflammation) that drive symptoms like pain. Since 2017, my lab has been studying how stimulation of somatosensory neurons by electroacupuncture drives autonomic nervous reflexes that can in turn modulate local or systemic inflammation; these new studies will explore the modern neuroanatomical basis behind acupuncture practice and help develop new systems biology approaches to treat diseases and chronic pain.

Complete List of Published Work in My Bibliography: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/qiufu.ma.1/bibliography/40526774/public/?sort=date&direction=descending

Publications View
Somatotopic Organization and Intensity Dependence in Driving Distinct NPY-Expressing Sympathetic Pathways by Electroacupuncture.
Authors: Authors: Liu S, Wang ZF, Su YS, Ray RS, Jing XH, Wang YQ, Ma Q.
Neuron
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Identifying the pathways required for coping behaviours associated with sustained pain.
Authors: Authors: Huang T, Lin SH, Malewicz NM, Zhang Y, Zhang Y, Goulding M, LaMotte RH, Ma Q.
Nature
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Timing Mechanisms Underlying Gate Control by Feedforward Inhibition.
Authors: Authors: Zhang Y, Liu S, Zhang YQ, Goulding M, Wang YQ, Ma Q.
Neuron
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Incoherent feed-forward regulatory loops control segregation of C-mechanoreceptors, nociceptors, and pruriceptors.
Authors: Authors: Lou S, Pan X, Huang T, Duan B, Yang FC, Yang J, Xiong M, Liu Y, Ma Q.
J Neurosci
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Transcriptional profiling at whole population and single cell levels reveals somatosensory neuron molecular diversity.
Authors: Authors: Chiu IM, Barrett LB, Williams EK, Strochlic DE, Lee S, Weyer AD, Lou S, Bryman GS, Roberson DP, Ghasemlou N, Piccoli C, Ahat E, Wang V, Cobos EJ, Stucky CL, Ma Q, Liberles SD, Woolf CJ.
Elife
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Identification of spinal circuits transmitting and gating mechanical pain.
Authors: Authors: Duan B, Cheng L, Bourane S, Britz O, Padilla C, Garcia-Campmany L, Krashes M, Knowlton W, Velasquez T, Ren X, Ross S, Lowell BB, Wang Y, Goulding M, Ma Q.
Cell
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Merkel cells are a touchy subject.
Authors: Authors: Ma Q.
Cell
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Genetic control of the segregation of pain-related sensory neurons innervating the cutaneous versus deep tissues.
Authors: Authors: Yang FC, Tan T, Huang T, Christianson J, Samad OA, Liu Y, Roberson D, Davis BM, Ma Q.
Cell Rep
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Ontogeny of excitatory spinal neurons processing distinct somatic sensory modalities.
Authors: Authors: Xu Y, Lopes C, Wende H, Guo Z, Cheng L, Birchmeier C, Ma Q.
J Neurosci
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Activity-dependent silencing reveals functionally distinct itch-generating sensory neurons.
Authors: Authors: Roberson DP, Gudes S, Sprague JM, Patoski HA, Robson VK, Blasl F, Duan B, Oh SB, Bean BP, Ma Q, Binshtok AM, Woolf CJ.
Nat Neurosci
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