Michael S. Gold, PhD

Professor, Neurobiology


W1451 Biomedical Science Tower
F: 412-383-8663


PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (1994)


Peripheral mechanisms of pain.

Research Summary

Pain continues to be a major health problem with tremendous financial, social and psychological costs. Conservative estimates put the cost of pain to the US economy well into the hundreds of billions of dollars per year as a result of associated medical expenses and lost wages with a significant minority of Americans suffering from persistent or recurrent pain syndromes throughout the most productive years of their lives. Just one pain syndrome, migraine headache, directly impacts 20% of the adult population. Yet, there remain few if any effective therapies devoid of serious side effects that are currently available to treat pain, particularly persistent or recurrent pain associated with syndromes.

The clinical features of a number of pain syndromes serve as the organizing focus of research in the Gold laboratory. These observations include the following: 1) many pain syndromes are unique to a particular part of the body such as the head in migraine, the temporomandibular joint in temporomandibular disorder (TMD), or the colon in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); 2) many pain syndromes such as migraine, TMD and IBD occur with a greater prevalence, severity and/or duration in women than in men; 3) many pain syndromes are associated with changes in the excitability of primary afferent neurons; 4) there are time dependent changes in the mechanisms underlying pain syndromes; and 5) the type of injury, (i.e., inflammation or nerve injury), are differentially sensitive to therapeutic interventions. These observations led to specific hypotheses that are tested in ongoing studies in the Gold laboratory. These include 1) characterizing the mechanisms underlying inflammation-induced changes in the evoked Ca2+ transients in sensory neurons, 2) characterizing the mechanisms underlying the initiation of migraine attacks, 3) characterizing the influence of estrogen on the excitability of spinal and trigeminal ganglion neurons, 4) characterizing the role of changes in inhibitory receptors, in particular GABA, in injury-induced increases in sensitivity, and 5) identification of ways to maximize the therapeutic utility of local anesthetics. The ultimate goal of these studies is to identify novel targets for the development of therapeutic interventions for the treatment of pain.


Paclitaxel-induced increase in mitochondrial volume mediates dysregulation of intracellular Ca2+ in putative nociceptive glabrous skin neurons from the rat

Yilmaz E, Watkins S and Gold MS. Cell Calcium 2017.
Gi-DREADD expression in peripheral nerves produces ligand-dependent analgesia, as well as ligand-independent functional changes in sensory neurons
Saloman JL, Scheff NN, Snyder LM, Ross SE, Davis BM, and Gold MS. J Neurosci 2016; 36(42): 10769-81.
Opioid Induced Loss of Local Anesthetic Potency in the Rat Sciatic Nerve
Liu Q and Gold MS. Anesthesiology 2016; 125(4): 755-66.
Paclitaxel-induced increase in NCX activity in subpopulations of nociceptive afferents: A protective mechanism against chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy?
Yilmaz E and Gold MS. Cell Calcium 2016; 60(1): 25-31.
Sex-, stress-, and sympathetic post-ganglionic-dependent changes in identity and proportions of immune cells in the dura.
McIlvried LA, Cruz JA, Borghesi LA, Gold MS.  Cephalalgia: an international journal of headache. 2016.
Zhu, Y., Dua, S. and Gold, M.S. Inflammation-induced shift in spinal GABAA signaling is associated with a tyrosine kinase dependent increase in GABAA current density in nociceptive afferents J Neurophysiol, In Press.

Lee, K.Y., Charbonnet, M. and Gold, M.S. Upregulation of high affinity GABAA receptors in cultured rat dorsal root ganglion neurons. Neuroscience 208: 133-42, 2012. (PMCID:PMC3311786)

Zhang, X.L., Mok, L.P., Lee, K.Y., Charbonnet, M. and Gold, M.S. Inflammation-induced changes in BKCa currents in cutaneous dorsal root ganglion neurons from the adult rat. Mol Pain. 8(1): 37, 2012. (PMCID:PMC3390281)

Yilmaz-Rastoder, E., Gold, M.S., Hough, K.A., Gebhart, G.F. and Williams, B.A. Effect of adjuvants on the action of local anesthetics in isolated rat sciatic nerves. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 37(4): 403-409, 2012.

Harriott, A.M., Scheff, N. and Gold, M.S. The complex actions of sumatriptan on rat dural afferents Cephalagia, 32(10): 738-749, 2012.