Professor, Principle Investigator
My long-term research interest is to understand mechanisms underlying drug addiction and to find possible treatment. We use behavioral, genetic, anatomical and molecular biological methods. One major research project is to identify mechanisms and neuronal circuits associated with reconsolidation and extinction of cocaine-induced reward memory. Another project is to develop a novel method of using skin stem cells to deliver therapeutic genes to combat the abuse of cocaine, ethanol, nicotine and their co-abuse.
Research Assistant Professor
My interdisciplinary research focuses on the role of dopamine receptors in cocaine abuse and novel gene therapies for drug abuse. Specifically, I have been working on the development of a transgenic mouse tool to express inducible dopamine receptor D1 (D1R) to create D1Rs over-expression and depletion in the brain. This unique transgenic line is particularly valuable in studying the function of dopamine receptors in the neuroscience community.
Most recently, I have been working on the development of skin stem cell-based gene therapy for drug abuse. I contributed to the development of an innovative cutaneous gene therapy that delivers active therapeutic cocaine hydrolase gene into rodent body, which allows for the continuous and effective expression of cocaine hydrolase. This therapy effectively prevents the development of cocaine’s rewarding effect in mice and drastically decreases the lethality rate caused by cocaine overdose. I further expand my research to glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), an FDA-approved treatment for type 2 diabetes, which has been reported effective in preventing alcohol abuse. Using the cutaneous gene delivery approach, I examined whether cutaneous expression of GLP-1 affects alcohol abuse. Within this project, I established a mouse model of oral alcohol abuse and conducted pharmacodynamics studies. I have found that cutaneous expression of GLP-1 can prevent voluntary alcohol taking, indicating a new promising gene therapy to prevent alcohol abuse.
My research focuses on characterizing and understanding mechanisms underlying drug addiction. I’ve previously worked on establishing a voluntary oral consumption two-bottle choice paradigm for nicotine consumption in mice, and will continue this line of inquiry by studying nicotine and alcohol co-abuse. My current project, working with Dr. Kong, focuses on the circuit-specific relationship between D3R receptors and compulsive cocaine taking.
My research is centered around utilizing behavioral and molecular methods to study alcohol-cocaine coabuse. I utilize several behavioral paradigms including conditioned place preference, two-bottle choice, and locomotor activity boxes. I also carry out neurochemical experiments via microdialysis recordings, which measure extracellular dopamine measurements in the nucleus accumbens after acute drug administration.
Post Doctoral Student