Life Sciences Labs

Directed by Dr. Brian Budgell, LS_SIthe Life Sciences Labs include the Neurophysiology and Immunology/Cell Biology Labs where researchers are investigating the cellular and tissue-level phenomena at the core of patients' pain and their responses to chiropractic treatment. Better understanding of the scientific underpinnings of chiropractic position us to improve the quality and effectiveness of treatment and enhances the dialogue between professions.

Upper cervical manipulation can have tremendous affects, both positive and negative, on human health and much attention has focused on the vertebral artery's sensitivity to physical forces, as this is thought to place patients at risk. However, remarkably, almost no research has investigated the innervation and neurally mediated behavior of these sensitive structures. Dr. Myra Kumka is addressing this important knowledge gap through meticulous anatomical dissections and histological studies of the artery. Dr. Kumka is attempting to identify autonomic and somatic nerves serving these vessels, as well as identifying the particular types of mechanoreceptors found in the vessel walls. These studies may help us to understand how cervical stimulation modulates diverse physiological functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure, and how manipulation of this vessel could lead to both therapeutic and adverse responses.

Cytokine profiles and pain response

Dr. Stephen Injeyan and Dr. Julita-Teodorczyk Injeyan are studying cytokine profiles in patients with back pain, and in patients who undergo spinal manipulation. Cytokines control many aspects of inflammation and pain, and so precise profiles may help us to identify patients who are more or less likely to respond to spinal manipulation. The Injeyans are using precise biochemical and molecular techniques including ELISA, western blot, immunofluorescence microscopy and PCR to produce some of the most detailed information available on the body's response to back and neck pain.

What makes TENS effective?

Dr. Guy Sovak is currently studying the mechanisms by which TENS (transcutaneous nerve stimulation) modulates the behavior of nerve cells. It is well known that TENS produces important clinical responses in different patients with pain and inflammation, but what are the mechanisms by which those responses are produced? Answering that question could help us to target and improve therapies. Dr. Sovak is working with different strains of neuronal cells, examining how TENS modulates the production and release of chemicals involved in pain and inflammation. He has discovered that TENS interrupts the normal behavior of cell membrane channels and ultimately suppresses the expression of certain genes responsible for inflammatory cytokine production.

Understanding spinal stenosis to improve interventions

The Director of the Life Science Labs, Dr. Brian Budgell is interested in the mechanisms and treatment of cord compression syndromes such as spinal stenosis. He has shown that, in short-term experiments, TENS-like stimulation can boost blood flow even in compressed spinal cord. He is now working on a model to implant and gently inflate almost microscopic balloons to mimic spinal stenosis in an animal model. He hopes that this research will help doctors to understand the mechanisms of disease – how and why compression harms the spinal cord - and to time their interventions more effectively.

Understanding pain in non-spinal tissues

Dr. Felipe Duarte comes to us from the University of Guelph, having just completed his Ph.D. under Dr. John Srbely. Dr. Duarte is especially interested in how spinal pain, for example in osteoarthritis, can induce pain and inflammation in extra-axial (non-spinal) tissues. Dr. Duarte is interested in both basic scientific studies in animals, and clinical studies in humans with biomechanical problems affecting the spine.