Professional Summary

  • Chronic pain conditions such as neuropathic pain are very common and can last a lifetime, persisting long after the initial damage to the nerve has healed. Chronic pain conditions involve complex, orchestrated changes in the sensory neurons and their synaptic targets. These changes include abnormal electrical activity, alterations in ion channels and transmitters, and sensitization of the pain pathways in the spinal cord and brain. We are currently investigating the role of cytokines in pain. We have developed new animal models involving compression and/or inflammation of the sensory ganglia. These models are particularly relevant to understanding low back pain. We have found that several inflammatory cytokines are upregulated in these models, with a time course that parallels the development of pain behaviors. Our aim is to understand the possible causal roles of these cytokines in abnormal pain states, with the ultimate goal of identifying new therapeutic targets for chronic pain. We use a number of techniques, including electrophysiology, animal behavior, microscopy, and biochemical and molecular methods. In a related project, we are also investigating the role and causes of the abnormal sympathetic sprouting into the sensory ganglia that exacerbates many chronic pain states and how sympathetic regulate local immune/inflammatory responses.  Recently, we have started several new projects: 1) determine whether and how high-fat diet and obsestiy may alter the responses to painful stimulation; 2) relationship between nerve injury initiated regeneration and the persistence of neuroapthic pain; 3) how steroid receptors change under pathological conditions and how such changes may affect theraputic efficacy of steroids used for managing inflammtory pain conditions.  Lastly, we have initiated several clinical studies to translate preclinical findings to clinical practice.  Specifically, we are interested in whether extended nerve block provides addtional benefit for patients with traumatic injury in lowing the risk of chronic pain; and how to improve efficacy of epidural steriods for managing low back pain.   


  • Medical Degree: Shandong University, 1988
  • Master's Degree: Peking Union Medical College & Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, 1991
  • Postdoctoral Associate: Yale University School of Medicine, 1996

Research/Clinical Interests

  • Physiology and pathophysiology of neuropathic pain, Sympathetic regulation of inflammatory response in pain, Mechanisms and management of low back pain, Sodium channels, ectopic discharges and pathological pain

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Positions and Work Experience
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  • 1991-1993,Lecturer,Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences,Beijing, China
  • 1996-1998,Associate Research Scientist,Study of chronic pain,Yale University School of Medicine,New Haven, Connecticut
  • 1998-2003,Assistant Professor,Physiology and pathology of pain,University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences ,Little Rock, Arkansas
  • 2003-2005,Associate Professor,University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences ,Little Rock, Arkansas
  • 2005-2008,Associate Professor of Anesthesiology,University of Cincinnati College of Medicine,Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 2005-2012,Director of Research,Developing research program in the Department of Anesthesiology,University of Cincinnati College of Medicine,Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 2008-to Present,Professor of Anesthesiology,Conducting research on pain,University of Cincinnati College of Medicine,Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 2012-to Present,Vice Chair for Research,Supervising research program in the Department of Anesthesiology,University of Cincinnati College of Medicine,Cincinnati, Ohio
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Research Grants
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  • R01-NS-04559405/01/2005-04/30/2010. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Study of Activity-Dependent Sympathetic Sprouting, PI, Closed.
  • R01 NS05586012/15/2007-11/30/2013. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Neural and Chemical Basis of Pathologic Pain, PI, Active.
  • IUPUI4686278CINN / 5 R01 NS06085307/17/2009-06/30/2011. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Sphingosine 1-Phosphate Receptors And Sensitization Of Sensory Neurons, PI, Active.
  • R01 NS04559405/01/2010-04/30/2015. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Study of Activity-Dependent Sympathetic Sprouting, PI, Active.
  • 2R01NS055860-0602/01/2013-01/31/2018. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Neural And Chemical Basis Of Pathological Pain, PI, Active.
  • R01NS04559402/01/2016-01/31/2021. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Study of Activity Dependant Sympathetic Sprouting, PI, Active.
  • FA8650-16-2-6G11 (Task under Master FA8650-15-2-6605)06/20/2016-06/19/2017. Air Force Research Laboratory. Extended Regional Anesthesia for Prevention of Chronic Pain after Traumatic Injury, PI, Active.
  • R01AR06898907/15/2016-06/30/2021. National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease. Steroids and Steroid Receptors in Low Back Pain, PI, Active.
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Peer Reviewed Publications (in chronological order)
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  • Ding, Z., Xu, W., Zhang, J., Zou, W., Guo, Q., Huang, C., Liu, C., Zhong, T., Zhang, J., & Song, Z. (2017). Normalizing GDNF expression in the spinal cord alleviates cutaneous hyperalgesia but not ongoing pain in a rat model of bone cancer pain.. International Journal of Cancer, 140 (2), 411-422. doi:10.1002/ijc.30438
  • Barbosa, C., Xiao, Y., Johnson, A. J., Xie, W., Strong, J. A., Zhang, J., & Cummins, T. R. (2016). FHF2 isoforms differentially regulate Nav1.6-mediated resurgent sodium currents in dorsal root ganglion neurons.. Pflugers Archiv : European Journal of Physiology. doi:10.1007/s00424-016-1911-9
  • Xie, W., Chen, S., Strong, J. A., Li, A., Lewkowich, I. P., & Zhang, J. (2016). Localized Sympathectomy Reduces Mechanical Hypersensitivity by Restoring Normal Immune Homeostasis in Rat Models of Inflammatory Pain.. The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society For Neuroscience, 36 (33), 8712-25. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4118-15.2016
  • Xie, W., Tan, Z., Barbosa, C., Strong, J. A., Cummins, T. R., & Zhang, J. (2016). Upregulation of the sodium channel NaV?4 subunit and its contributions to mechanical hypersensitivity and neuronal hyperexcitability in a rat model of radicular pain induced by local dorsal root ganglion inflammation.. Pain, 157 (4), 879-91. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000453
  • Barbosa, C., Tan, Z., Wang, R., Xie, W., Strong, J. A., Patel, R. R., Vasko, M. R., Zhang, J., & Cummins, T. R. (2015). Nav?4 regulates fast resurgent sodium currents and excitability in sensory neurons.. Molecular Pain, 11, 60. doi:10.1186/s12990-015-0063-9
  • Ye, L., Xie, W., Strong, J. A., & Zhang, J. (2014). (In Press). Blocking the Mineralocorticoid Receptor Improves Effectiveness of Steroid Treatment for Low Back Pain in Rats.. Anesthesiology. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000000277
  • Xie, W., Strong, J. A., Ye, L., Mao, J., & Zhang, J. (2013). Knockdown of sodium channel NaV1.6 blocks mechanical pain and abnormal bursting activity of afferent neurons in inflamed sensory ganglia.. Pain, 154 (8), 1170-80. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2013.02.027
  • Strong, J. A., Xie, W., Bataille, F. J., & Zhang, J. (2013). Preclinical studies of low back pain.. Molecular Pain, 9, 17. doi:10.1186/1744-8069-9-17
  • Dong, F., Xie, W., Strong, J. A., & Zhang, J. (2012). Mineralocorticoid receptor blocker eplerenone reduces pain behaviors in vivo and decreases excitability in small-diameter sensory neurons from local inflamed dorsal root ganglia in vitro.. Anesthesiology, 117 (5), 1102-12. doi:10.1097/ALN.0b013e3182700383
  • Xie, W., Strong, J. A., Kays, J., Nicol, G. D., & Zhang, J. (2012). Knockdown of the sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor S1PR1 reduces pain behaviors induced by local inflammation of the rat sensory ganglion.. Neuroscience Letters, 515 (1), 61-5. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2012.03.019
  • Dong, F., Du, Y., Xie, W., Strong, J. A., He, X., & Zhang, J. (2012). Increased function of the TRPV1 channel in small sensory neurons after local inflammation or in vitro exposure to the pro-inflammatory cytokine GRO/KC.. Neuroscience Bulletin, 28 (2), 155-64. doi:10.1007/s12264-012-1208-8
  • Strong, J. A., Xie, W., Coyle, D. E., & Zhang, J. (2012). Microarray analysis of rat sensory ganglia after local inflammation implicates novel cytokines in pain.. PloS One, 7 (7), e40779. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040779
  • Xie, W., Strong, J. A., Mao, J., & Zhang, J. (2011). Highly localized interactions between sensory neurons and sprouting sympathetic fibers observed in a transgenic tyrosine hydroxylase reporter mouse.. Molecular Pain, 7, 53. doi:10.1186/1744-8069-7-53
  • Du, Y., Xiao, Y., Lu, Z., Ding, J., Xie, F., Fu, H., Wang, Y., Strong, J. A., Zhang, J., & Chen, J. (2011). Melittin activates TRPV1 receptors in primary nociceptive sensory neurons via the phospholipase A2 cascade pathways.. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 408 (1), 32-7. doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.03.110
  • Li, J., Xie, W., Strong, J. A., Guo, Q., & Zhang, J. (2011). Mechanical hypersensitivity, sympathetic sprouting, and glial activation are attenuated by local injection of corticosteroid near the lumbar ganglion in a rat model of neuropathic pain.. Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, 36 (1), 56-62. doi:10.1097/AAP.0b013e318203087f
  • Xie, W., Strong, J. A., & Zhang, J. (2010). Increased excitability and spontaneous activity of rat sensory neurons following in vitro stimulation of sympathetic fiber sprouts in the isolated dorsal root ganglion. Pain, 151 (2), 447-59. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2010.08.006
  • Jones, W. K., Fan, G., Liao, S., Zhang, J., Wang, Y., Weintraub, N. L., Kranias, E. G., Schultz, J. E., Lorenz, J., & Ren, X. (2009). Peripheral nociception associated with surgical incision elicits remote nonischemic cardioprotection via neurogenic activation of protein kinase C signaling.. Circulation, 120 (11 Suppl), S1-9. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.843938
  • Yang, R., Strong, J. A., & Zhang, J. (2009). NF-kappaB mediated enhancement of potassium currents by the chemokine CXCL1/growth related oncogene in small diameter rat sensory neurons.. Molecular Pain, 5, 26. doi:10.1186/1744-8069-5-26
  • Li, J., Xie, W., Zhang, J., & Baccei, M. L. (2009). Peripheral nerve injury sensitizes neonatal dorsal horn neurons to tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Molecular Pain, 5, 10. doi:10.1186/1744-8069-5-10
  • Xie, W., Strong, J. A., & Zhang, J. (2009). Early blockade of injured primary sensory afferents reduces glial cell activation in two rat neuropathic pain models.. Neuroscience, 160 (4), 847-57. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.03.016
  • Zhang, J., & Strong, J. A. (2008). Recent evidence for activity-dependent initiation of sympathetic sprouting and neuropathic pain.. Sheng Li Xue Bao : [Acta Physiologica Sinica], 60 (5), 617-27.
  • Wang, J., Strong, J. A., Xie, W., Yang, R., Coyle, D. E., Wick, D. M., Dorsey, E. D., & Zhang, J. (2008). The chemokine CXCL1/growth related oncogene increases sodium currents and neuronal excitability in small diameter sensory neurons.. Molecular Pain, 4, 38. doi:10.1186/1744-8069-4-38
  • Zhang, J., & Munir, M. (2008). Radicular low back pain: what have we learned from recent animal research?. Anesthesiology, 108 (1), 5-6. doi:10.1097/01.anes.0000296148.09016.d5
  • Liu, B., Dobretsov, M., Stimers, J. R., & Zhang, J. (2008). Tumor Necrosis Factor-? Suppresses Activation of Sustained Potassium Currents in Rat Small Diameter Sensory Neurons.. The Open Pain Journal, 1, 1. doi:10.2174/1876386300801010001
  • Munir, M. A., Enany, N., & Zhang, J. (2007). Nonopioid analgesics.. Anesthesiology Clinics, 25 (4), 761-74, vi. doi:10.1016/j.anclin.2007.07.007
  • Li, H., Xie, W., Strong, J. A., & Zhang, J. (2007). Systemic antiinflammatory corticosteroid reduces mechanical pain behavior, sympathetic sprouting, and elevation of proinflammatory cytokines in a rat model of neuropathic pain.. Anesthesiology, 107 (3), 469-77. doi:10.1097/01.anes.0000278907.37774.8d
  • Wang, J., Strong, J. A., Xie, W., & Zhang, J. (2007). Local inflammation in rat dorsal root ganglion alters excitability and ion currents in small-diameter sensory neurons.. Anesthesiology, 107 (2), 322-32. doi:10.1097/01.anes.0000270761.99469.a7
  • Zhang, J., & An, J. (2007). Cytokines, inflammation, and pain.. International Anesthesiology Clinics, 45 (2), 27-37. doi:10.1097/AIA.0b013e318034194e
  • Xie, W., Strong, J. A., Li, H., & Zhang, J. (2007). Sympathetic sprouting near sensory neurons after nerve injury occurs preferentially on spontaneously active cells and is reduced by early nerve block.. Journal of Neurophysiology, 97 (1), 492-502. doi:10.1152/jn.00899.2006
  • Munir, M. A., Enany, N., & Zhang, J. (2007). Nonopioid analgesics.. The Medical Clinics of North America, 91 (1), 97-111. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2006.10.011
  • Ackerman, W. E., & Zhang, J. (2006). Efficacy of stellate ganglion blockade for the management of type 1 complex regional pain syndrome.. Southern Medical Journal, 99 (10), 1084-8.
  • Ackerman, W. E., & Zhang, J. (2006). Serum hs-CRP as a useful marker for predicting the efficacy of lumbar epidural steroid injections on pain relief in patients with lumbar disc herniations.. The Journal of the Kentucky Medical Association, 104 (7), 295-9.
  • Xie, W., Deng, H., Li, H., Bowen, T. L., Strong, J. A., & Zhang, J. (2006). Robust increase of cutaneous sensitivity, cytokine production and sympathetic sprouting in rats with localized inflammatory irritation of the spinal ganglia.. Neuroscience, 142 (3), 809-22. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.06.045
  • Xie, W., Strong, J. A., Meij, J. T. A., Zhang, J., & Yu, L. (2005). Neuropathic pain: early spontaneous afferent activity is the trigger.. Pain, 116 (3), 243-56. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2005.04.017
  • Chien, S. Q., Li, C., Li, H., Xie, W., Pablo, C. S., & Zhang, J. (2005). Sympathetic Fiber Sprouting in Chronically Compressed Dorsal Root Ganglia Without Peripheral Axotomy.. Journal of Neuropathic Pain & Symptom Palliation, 1 (1), 19-23. doi:10.1300/J426v01n01_05
  • Ackerman, W. E., Munir, M. A., Zhang, J., & Ghaleb, A. (2004). Are diagnostic lumbar facet injections influenced by pain of muscular origin?. Pain Practice : the Official Journal of World Institute of Pain, 4 (4), 286-91. doi:10.1111/j.1533-2500.2004.04402.x
  • Li, A., Zhang, J., & Xie, Y. (2004). Human acupuncture points mapped in rats are associated with excitable muscle/skin-nerve complexes with enriched nerve endings.. Brain Research, 1012 (1-2), 154-9. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2004.04.009
  • Zhang, J., Li, H., & Munir, M. A. (2004). Decreasing sympathetic sprouting in pathologic sensory ganglia: a new mechanism for treating neuropathic pain using lidocaine.. Pain, 109 (1-2), 143-9. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2004.01.033
  • Simone, D. A., Zhang, X., Li, J., Zhang, J., Honda, C. N., LaMotte, R. H., & Giesler, G. J. (2004). Comparison of responses of primate spinothalamic tract neurons to pruritic and algogenic stimuli.. Journal of Neurophysiology, 91 (1), 213-22. doi:10.1152/jn.00527.2003
  • Munir, M. A., Zhang, J., & Ahmad, M. (2004). A modified needle-inside-needle technique for the ganglion impar block.. Canadian Journal of Anaesthesia = Journal Canadien D'anesth & #233;sie, 51 (9), 915-7. doi:10.1007/BF03018890
  • Dupont-Versteegden, E. E., Houlé, J. D., Dennis, R. A., Zhang, J., Knox, M., Wagoner, G., & Peterson, C. A. (2004). Exercise-induced gene expression in soleus muscle is dependent on time after spinal cord injury in rats.. Muscle & Nerve, 29 (1), 73-81. doi:10.1002/mus.10511
  • Song, X., Zhang, J., Hu, S., & LaMotte, R. H. (2003). Somata of nerve-injured sensory neurons exhibit enhanced responses to inflammatory mediators.. Pain, 104 (3), 701-9.
  • Dobretsov, M., Hastings, S. L., Romanovsky, D., Stimers, J. R., & Zhang, J. (2003). Mechanical hyperalgesia in rat models of systemic and local hyperglycemia.. Brain Research, 960 (1-2), 174-83.
  • Munir, M. A., Jaffar, M., Arshad, M., Akhter, M. S., & Zhang, J. (2003). Reduced duration of muscle relaxation with rocuronium in a normocalcemic hyperparathyroid patient.. Canadian Journal of Anaesthesia = Journal Canadien D, 50 (6), 558-61. doi:10.1007/BF03018640
  • Liu, B., Li, H., Brull, S. J., & Zhang, J. (2002). Increased sensitivity of sensory neurons to tumor necrosis factor alpha in rats with chronic compression of the lumbar ganglia.. Journal of Neurophysiology, 88 (3), 1393-9.
  • Zhang, J., Li, H., Liu, B., & Brull, S. J. (2002). Acute topical application of tumor necrosis factor alpha evokes protein kinase A-dependent responses in rat sensory neurons.. Journal of Neurophysiology, 88 (3), 1387-92.
  • Li, H., Liu, B., Dobretsov, M., Brull, S. J., & Zhang, J. (2002). Thermosensitivity of large primary sensory neurons.. Brain Research, 926 (1-2), 18-26.
  • Homma, Y., Brull, S. J., & Zhang, J. (2002). A comparison of chronic pain behavior following local application of tumor necrosis factor alpha to the normal and mechanically compressed lumbar ganglia in the rat.. Pain, 95 (3), 239-46.
  • Hu, S., Song, X., Greenquist, K. W., Zhang, J., & LaMotte, R. H. (2001). Protein kinase A modulates spontaneous activity in chronically compressed dorsal root ganglion neurons in the rat.. Pain, 94 (1), 39-46.
  • Dobretsov, M., Hastings, S. L., Stimers, J. R., & Zhang, J. M. (2001). Mechanical hyperalgesia in rats with chronic perfusion of lumbar dorsal root ganglion with hyperglycemic solution.. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 110 (1-2), 9-15.
  • Munir, M. A., Saleem, M., Zhang, J. M., & Mancino, A. K. (2001). Case of the month. Aberrant placement of central venous catheter in a thymic vein.. The Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society, 98 (4), 112-4.
  • Zhang, J., Homma, Y., Ackerman, W. E., & Brull, S. J. (2001). Topical application of acidic bupivacaine to the lumbar ganglion induces mechanical hyperalgesia in the rat.. Anesthesia and Analgesia, 93 (2), 466-71, 4th contents.
  • Liu, B., Zhuang, X. L., Li, S. T., Xu, G. H., Brull, S. J., & Zhang, J. (2001). Effects of bupivacaine and ropivacaine on high-voltage-activated calcium currents of the dorsal horn neurons in newborn rats.. Anesthesiology, 95 (1), 139-43.
  • Zhang, J., Li, H., & Brull, S. J. (2000). Perfusion of the mechanically compressed lumbar ganglion with lidocaine reduces mechanical hyperalgesia and allodynia in the rat.. Journal of Neurophysiology, 84 (2), 798-805.
  • Brull, S. J., Atanassoff, P. G., Silverman, D. G., Zhang, J., & LaMotte, R. H. (1999). Attenuation of experimental pruritus and mechanically evoked dysesthesiae in an area of cutaneous allodynia.. Somatosensory & Motor Research, 16 (4), 299-303.
  • Atanassoff, P. G., Brull, S. J., Zhang, J., Greenquist, K., Silverman, D. G., & LaMotte, R. H. (1999). Enhancement of experimental pruritus and mechanically evoked dysesthesiae with local anesthesia.. Somatosensory & Motor Research, 16 (4), 291-8.
  • Zhang, J., Song, X., & LaMotte, R. H. (1999). Enhanced excitability of sensory neurons in rats with cutaneous hyperalgesia produced by chronic compression of the dorsal root ganglion.. Journal of Neurophysiology, 82 (6), 3359-66.
  • Song, X., Hu, S., Greenquist, K. W., Zhang, J., & LaMotte, R. H. (1999). Mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia and ectopic neuronal discharge after chronic compression of dorsal root ganglia.. Journal of Neurophysiology, 82 (6), 3347-58.
  • Zhang, J., Donnelly, D. F., & LaMotte, R. H. (1998). Patch clamp recording from the intact dorsal root ganglion.. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 79 (1), 97-103.
  • Zhang, J., Donnelly, D. F., Song, X., & LaMotte, R. H. (1997). Axotomy increases the excitability of dorsal root ganglion cells with unmyelinated axons.. Journal of Neurophysiology, 78 (5), 2790-4.
  • Zhang, J., Song, X., & LaMotte, R. H. (1997). An in vitro study of ectopic discharge generation and adrenergic sensitivity in the intact, nerve-injured rat dorsal root ganglion.. Pain, 72 (1-2), 51-7.
  • Petersen, M., Zhang, J., Zhang, J., & LaMotte, R. H. (1996). Abnormal spontaneous activity and responses to norepinephrine in dissociated dorsal root ganglion cells after chronic nerve constriction.. Pain, 67 (2-3), 391-7.
  • Xie, Y., Zhang, J., Petersen, M., & LaMotte, R. H. (1995). Functional changes in dorsal root ganglion cells after chronic nerve constriction in the rat.. Journal of Neurophysiology, 73 (5), 1811-20.
  • Zhang, J., Xu, C., & Chen, J. (1992). [The role of substance P in the modulation of myotension in paralyzed limbs after spinal transsection on rats].. Zhongguo Yi Xue Ke Xue Yuan Xue Bao. Acta Academiae Medicinae Sinicae, 14 (6), 413-8.
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  • dorsal root ganglion, low back pain, inflammation, neuropathic pain, sympathetic, cytokines, chemokines
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Human Protocols
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  • Co-Investigator
    CRPS pilot study
    COM Anesthesiology

    Staff: Strong, Judith (Sub-investigator); Richardson, Denise (Coordinator); Zhang, Jun-Ming (Sub-investigator)
    Approval Date:08/15/2016
  • Principal Investigator
    DOD nerve block study
    COM Anesthesiology

    Staff: Bertsch, Stuart (Sub-investigator); Richardson, Denise (Coordinator); Southam, Brendan (Sub-investigator); Finnan, Ryan (Sub-investigator); Fortman, James (Sub-investigator); Strong, Judith (Sub-investigator)
    Approval Date:09/28/2016
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Animal Protocols
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  • Principal Investigator
    Physiology and pathophysiology of pain05-01-20-02
    Approved     Exp. Date: 01/12/2020
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