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UCL Division of Biosciences

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Prof Steve Hunt

Prof Steve Hunt

Professor of Molecular Neurobiology

Cell & Developmental Biology

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
1st Aug 1998

Research summary

Chronic pain is a widespread debilitating condition affecting millions of people worldwide often accompanied by depression and anxiety. Although several pharmacological treatments for relieving chronic pain have been developed, they require frequent chronic administration and are often associated with severe adverse events, including overdose and addiction. The opiate epidemic in the US has been widely publicised but the situation is not much better in the UK.  

Persistent increased sensitization of neuronal subpopulations of the peripheral and central nervous system has been recognized as a central mechanism mediating chronic pain, suggesting that inhibition of specific neuronal subpopulations might produce antinociceptive effects. Research in my laboratory with mice, using behavioural and molecular approaches and together with my collaborators Dr Maria Maiaru (Reading University) and Professor Bazbek Davletov (Sheffield University), has leveraged the neurotoxic properties of botulinum toxin to specifically silence key pain-processing neurons in the spinal cords of mice. We have shown that a single intrathecal injection of botulinum toxin conjugates produced reversible pain relief in mouse models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain for up to 4 months without toxic side effects. Our research supported by the MRC is providing a strategy that is safe and effective for relieving chronic pain while avoiding the adverse events associated with repeated chronic drug administration. Our future research will be moving towards translation of this research in both companion animals and humans with persistent pain states.

Teaching summary

Organizer of 3rd year module ANAT0012 Molecular Basis of Neuropsychiatric Disorders and co-organiser of the ANAT0013 Pain module. Graduate Tutor for CDB. 

Education

University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1994
University of London
First Degree, Bachelor of Science (Honours) | 1969
Publications