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Andrew Russo

Name: Andrew Russo
Title: Professor
Focus Area: Research
Email: andrew-russo@uiowa.edu
Office Number: 319-335-7872
Campus Address: 5-432 BSB

My research interest is the molecular basis of migraine, which involves debilitating craniofacial pain. To understand the underlying mechanisms of migraine, we have focused on the nociceptive neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). CGRP is the most abundant neuropeptide in the trigeminal nerve and CGRP receptor antagonists and blocking antibodies are currently in clinical trials for migraine and arthritis pain. CGRP is elevated during migraine and can induce migraine symptoms in people susceptible to migraine, but not in control subjects. This suggests that migraineurs are more sensitive to CGRP actions. Based on these clinical observations, we generated a CGRP-sensitized transgenic mouse as a preclinical model to test non-headache clinical endpoints, such as light aversive behavior. We are also looking at how CGRP might become elevated in migraine. We have found that inflammatory signals, hypoxia, and possibly cortical spreading depression associated with the aura phase of migraine can increase CGRP gene expression, including epigenetic activation in trigeminal and cortical glia. In collaborative projects, the lab is also using these mice to study the beneficial effects of CGRP and related peptides against hypertension and obesity. Most recently, we have begun translational studies testing the photic blink reflex as a quantitative measure of the photophobia experienced by migraineurs, including many veterans with mild traumatic brain injuries. Our overall goals are to develop effective diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for migraine and associated disorders.