My primary interest lies in the understanding of gene x environment interactions on pain outcomes, with a particular focus on stress and injury/inflammation as environmental factors. Genetic factors have been shown to contribute significantly to variability in the response to painful stimuli. We are beginning to unravel the individual gene candidates and the families of genes that contribute to differences in pain responses. Using genetic correlation analysis with standard inbred strains of mice in addition to whole-genome quantitative trait locus (WTL) mapping with genetic reference populations as our most powerful tools, we are able to explore the genetic contribution to both somatic and visceral pain behaviors. Stress and inflammation can both modulate pain responses to various stimuli, and it is likely that different genes are involved in pain under normal conditions and the modulation of pain through environmental factors. Most recently, my research has focused on these issues as they relate to bowel pain after inflammation using animal models of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The candidate genes identified in preclinical models can then be examined in clinical populations to determine whether these genes contribute to pain susceptibility in IBD patients. The goal is to further understand the mechanisms underlying persistent bowel pain and to use this knowledge to identify novel therapeutic targets to reduce pain and suffering in clinical populations.
Dr. Young is the assistant director of UConn's Center for Advancement in Managing Pain (CAMP).
Areas of Expertise (4)
Kent State University: Ph.D., Experimental Biological Psychology 2005
Kent State University: M.A., Experimental Biological Psychology 2003
Wesleyan College: B.A., Biology 2000
Minors in Physics and Neuroscience
- International Association for the Study of Pain
- American Pain Society
- Society for Neuroscience (SFN)
- Genetics Society of America
International Association for the Study of Pain Foreign Travel Award (professional)
Student Recognition Award for Teaching Excellence (professional)
Mentoring Fellowship Award (professional)
American Psychological Association Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE) Imprinting-Interdivisional
Dissertation Research Award (professional)
American Psychological Association
Divya Ramesh, Amy D’Agata, Angela Starkweather, Erin Young
A major research emphasis has been focused on defining the molecular changes that occur from acute to chronic pain in order to identify potential therapeutic targets for chronic pain. As the endocannabinoid system is dynamically involved in pain signaling, a plausible mechanism that may contribute to chronic pain vulnerability involves alterations in the amount of circulating endocannabinoids.
Erin E Young, Debra Lynch Kelly, Insop Shim, Kyle M Baumbauer, Angela Starkweather, Debra E Lyon
Women with breast cancer frequently report distressing symptoms during and after treatment that can significantly erode quality of life (QOL). Symptom burden among women with breast cancer is of complex etiology and is likely influenced by disease, treatment, and environmental factors as well as individual genetic differences. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationships between genetic polymorphisms within Neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor 1 (NTRK1), Neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor 2 (NTRK2), and catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and patient symptom burden of QOL, pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance before, during, and after treatment for breast cancer in a subset of participants (N = 51) in a randomized clinical trial of a novel symptom-management modality for women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Patients were recruited at the time of initial breast cancer diagnosis and completed all survey measures at the time of recruitment, after the initiation of treatment (surgery and/or chemotherapy), and then following treatment conclusion. Multiple linear regression analyses revealed significant associations between NTRK2 and COMT single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype and symptom burden. Two COMT variants were associated with the specific symptoms of anxiety and QOL measures prior to the initiation of chemotherapy as well as pain interference and severity during and after treatment. Genotype at the NTRK2 SNP rs1212171 was associated with both sleep disturbance and fatigue. These findings, while exploratory, indicate that the genotypes of NTRK2 and COMT may contribute to relative risk for symptom burden during and shortly after the period of chemotherapy in women with early stage breast cancer.
Victoria Grossi, Jeffrey S Hyams, Erin Young
Abdominal pain is a common and burdensome feature of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in children that is associated with impaired quality of life. Clinical observations indicate frequent dissociation between severity and extent of inflammation and magnitude of abdominal pain, as well as persistent pain even when inflammation has been adequately treated. These observations suggest that mechanisms other than inflammation may mediate the pain experience.
Erin E Young, Amy D'Agata, Dorothy Vittner, Kyle M Baumbauer
As healthcare teams have worked to improve infant survival rates, the management of painful events experienced by these hospitalized neonates has increased and yet pain management remains highly variable between healthcare institutions. At the same time, emerging evidence suggests that these early painful experiences may alter the trajectory of development for pain-processing pathways both peripherally and centrally.
J Yasko, M Yeh, E Levine, E Young, K Baumbauer
In addition to loss of motor function, spinal cord injury (SCI) also results in chronic pain in the majority of patients. Extensive work has characterized spinally-mediated alterations that contribute to ongoing pain processing, but it is now evident that primary afferents also play a role in the generation and persistence of SCI pain. Here we examine SCI-induced changes in gene expression and the physiological properties of sensory neurons, as well as the skin and muscle in which they innervate.