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Megan Detloff, Ph.D.

Megan R. Detloff, Ph.D.
Instructor, Dept. Neurobiology and Anatomy, Drexel University College of Medicine
Email: mdetloff@drexelmed.edu
Phone: (215) 991-8986

Neurorehabilitative Strategies to Prevent Aberrant Afferent Plasticity and Neuropathic Pain After Spinal Cord Injury


B.S., Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2002
Ph.D., Neuroscience, The Ohio State University, Mentor: D. Michele Basso, 2009
Postdoctoral training, Dept. of Neurobiology & Anatomy, Drexel University College of Medicine, Mentor: John D. Houlé

Research and Interest

My research is focused on understanding the molecular underpinnings that contribute to the development of chronic, debilitating neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury. This pain can be described as the pain of everyday living. Normal activities like wearing a t-shirt or testing the temperature of bath water are perceived as painful. The aberrant plasticity and distribution of nociceptive primary afferents within the dorsal horn after SCI is thought to be a major contributor to the development of chronic pain.

Our goals in the lab are to:
1. Define the mechanisms that cause aberrant afferent distribution within the dorsal horn after SCI.
2. Assess the behavioral consequences using complex behavioral tools that involve decision making and cortical processing.
3. Identify new molecular targets within primary sensory neurons that may be beneficial in the treatment of SCI-induced pain.
4. Develop a rehabilitative exercise paradigm that abates aberrant afferent sprouting and pain behavior.


Students currently have the opportunity to learn a wide variety of behavioral and neuroanatomical techniques in the lab:

Surgical: Stereotaxic brain and spinal cord surgery, infusions of neurotoxins, retrograde and anterograde fluorescent labeling.
Behavioral: Sensory testing, use of the BBB and FLS locomotor rating scales, gait analysis, development of rehabilitative strategies for functional recovery.
Neuroanatomical: Immunocytochemistry, tract tracing, stereologic cell counting.
Molecular: Laser capture microdissection of primary sensory and dorsal horn neurons, quantitative-PCR for transcription factors and other phenotypic markers of primary sensory neuron subtype, micro-Array analysis of microRNA, isolation of protein for Western Blot or ELISA analyses.

Active Funding

#220798 Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Fellowship
Megan R. Detloff, P.I.
Dates of Project (Entire Period of Support): 07/01/2012-06/31/2014
Title: “Effect of exercise on pain development after SCI and afferent sprouting.” 
Objective: The objective of this project is to establish a possible mechanism by which exercise acts as a potent and effective treatment to alter the response of nociceptive primary afferents and reduce SCI-induced neuropathic pain.

Edward Jekkal Muscular Dystrophy Research Fellowship
Megan R. Detloff, P.I.
Dates of Project: 07/01/2014-06/30-2016
Title: “Regulation of RunX proteins by exercise prevents afferent sprouting and the   development of neuropathic pain after SCI”. 
Objective: The objective of this project is to establish a relationship between SCI, the development of chronic neuropathic pain and the molecular phenotype of primary sensory neurons as well as establish a role for exercise in modulating the phenotypic signature of nociceptive and non-nociceptive primary sensory neurons.

Selected Publications

  1. Detloff, MR, Smith, EJ, Quiros Molina D, Ganzer PD, Houle JD. Acute exercise prevents the development of neuropathic pain and the sprouting of non-peptidergic (GDNF- and artemin-responsive) c-fibers after spinal cord injury. Experimental Neurology 2014; 255C:38-48.
  2. Detloff, MR, Wade, Jr. RE, Houlé, JD. Chronic at- and below-level pain following unilateral cervical spinal cord contusion in rats. Journal of Neurotrauma 2013; 30(10):884-90. PMID 23216008.
  3. Côté, M-P, Detloff, MR*, Wade, Jr. R.E., Houlé, JD. Plasticity in ascending long propriospinal and descending supraspinal pathways in chronic cervical spinal cord injured rats. Front Physiol. 2012; 3:330. PMID 22934078. (*indicates authors contributed equally).
  4. Detloff MR, Fisher LC, Deibert RJ, Basso DM. Acute and chronic tactile sensory testing after spinal cord injury in rats. Journal of Visualized Experiments 2012; (62), e3247, DOI: 10.3791/3247. PMID 2250841.
  5. Liu G, Detloff MR*, Miller KN, Santi L, Houlé, JD. Exercise modulates microRNAs that affect the PTEN/mTOR pathway in rats after spinal cord injury. Experimental Neurology 2011. Epub Ahead of Print. PMCID: PMC3268901. (*indicates authors contributed equally).
  6. Detloff MR, Clark LM, Fisher LC, Hutchinson KJ, Kloos AD, Basso DM. Validity of acute and chronic tactile sensory testing after spinal cord injury in rats. Experimental Neurology 2010; 225(2): 366-76. PMID 20643128.
  7. Detloff MR, Fisher LC, Longbrake EE, McGaughy V, Popovich PG, Basso DM.  Remote activation of microglia and pro-inflammatory cytokines predict the onset and severity of below-level neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury in rats. Experimental Neurology 2008; 212: 337–347. PMID 18511041. **Evaluated by Faculty of 1000.
  8. Kloos AD, Fisher LC, Detloff MR, Hassenzahl DL, Basso DM.  Stepwise motor and all-or-none sensory recovery is associated with non-linear sparing after incremental spinal cord injury in rats.  Experimental Neurology 2005; 191(2):  251-265. PMID 15649480.

Complete List of Publications