Gregory Dussor: Member Spotlight
This month’s spotlight honoree discusses his laboratory work and the need for more research scientists in the American Headache Society
Our December member spotlight is Gregory Dussor, PhD. An AHS member since 2012, Dussor is an associate professor in Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Dr. Dussor’s current research focuses on uncovering pathological mechanisms and therapeutic targets for migraine. He did not, however, set out to explore migraine or headache disorders in a research laboratory setting.
“My initial focus was on acute and chronic pain, which is clearly very different in many ways,” he says. “I had a colleague who was studying migraine, and he convinced me to start thinking about this area. The more I investigated, the more interested I became.”
Dr. Dussor hopes to see other cross-disciplinary researchers like him come to the table.
“We need as many people thinking creatively about the problem of headache disease as we can get,” he says. “Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of educating people on how big and interesting of a problem this is and generating an interest in them to study migraine.”
Paving the Way for Relief
One of the first studies Dr. Dussor and his colleagues published when he entered the field of migraine was to show that a family of receptors called acid-sensing ion channels (or ASICs) could contribute to the activation of meningeal nociceptors. Since that time, many neurologists have added amiloride—a non-selective blocker of ASICs that was already approved for use—to their list of off-label migraine therapeutics. Amiloride is now being tested as a migraine preventive in clinical trials in France.
“If even a small fraction of patients get better because of amiloride, that is more important to me than any publication, grant or research award,” Dr. Dussor says.
The most likely mechanism contributing to migraine pain is activation of peripheral nociceptive signaling from the meninges. So, experiments in Dr. Dussor’s laboratory focus on identifying cellular mechanisms of dural afferent activation/sensitization. They also center around understanding plasticity at the central terminals of these neurons. Most recently, his research may help explain why migraine is three times more common in women than men by showing that calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) might act differently between sexes.
Including More Researchers in AHS
Dr. Dussor highlights that there are a number of talented doctors working with the American Headache Society. He notes, however, that it would be great to see more basic research scientists under the AHS umbrella. He says that there are many other professionals working in headache that do not practice medicine. This means that creating a new Special Interest Section dedicated to basic science research in headache medicine could help pull more of that talent into the Society.
“I think it would be great for that kind of group to exist—for people to get together and talk about the challenges and opportunities that exist in the context of headache diseases and migraine,” he says. “I think that having a basic-science Special Interest Section would be an immediate home for anybody who isn’t coming into the Society from a clinical background.”
About Gregory Dussor
Name: Gregory Dussor, PhD
AHS Membership: Member since 2012
Primary: Associate Professor of Neuroscience, The University of Texas at Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Quote: “Headache disorders are a fascinating part of human neuroscience, primarily because we know so little about them and yet they are everywhere and can be so devastating to the lives of sufferers. These are the kinds of big challenges that basic researchers seek out.”