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LRI Expands its Programs

The Legacy Research Institute (LRI) is excited to welcome two new research scientists to its research program.  Dr. Barbara Sorg joined LRI as the Robert S. Dow Chair of the Neurosciences Laboratories along with Dr. Adrianne Wilson-Poe, who is also joining Dow Neuroscience Laboratories. This addition to our scientific staff is an exciting development for us at LRI and made possible through a generous grant from the Legacy Good Samaritan Foundation that has generously and consistently supported LRI’s research programs for many years. Both scientists have unique interests in the addiction sciences, and both come with a strong desire to take their findings from the lab and translate them to advances in clinical care.  Also, with LRI’s proximity to Unity, Dr. Sorg has identified some exciting opportunities that exist for future research collaborations. 

About the new researchers:

Dr. Barb SorgDr. Barb Sorg joins LRI from Washington State University with an outstanding addiction research career and is accomplished at mentoring students to become successful and independent scientists. She has also brought a number of staff from her lab to join us and is eager for the opportunity to begin translating her basic research findings into clinical work at Legacy. 
 
As Dr. Sorg explains: "One of the most insidious aspects of drug addiction is the chronic relapse that can occur over the lifetime of the individual. My lab studies how to disrupt the potent and persistent memories that drive this relapse with the overall goal of reducing it. We focus on models of addiction, examining a process called ‘memory reconsolidation’.  Memories are based on brain changes (neural plasticity) that occur in many areas, including the prefrontal cortex, a region involved in decision making and cognition that are both impaired in addiction. Drugs of abuse are especially powerful in their ability to induce neural plasticity in areas such as the prefrontal cortex to create strong addiction memories. Our goal is to rewrite memories by disrupting reconsolidation to decrease relapse. In addition to the rodent work, future studies will focus on human memories, with the goal of rewriting memories in those afflicted with addiction.  
 
Emerging as critical to neural plasticity and the formation and maintenance of memories are tiny, delicate nets that wrap around neurons. These perineuronal nets (PNNs) are composed of a matrix material that enwrap the surface of specific brain cells during development, and they control plasticity in the adult brain. PNNs contribute to a wide range of diseases and disorders of the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and brain injury/stroke. In addition, PNNs are involved in recovery from spinal cord injury and are altered during ageing, learning and memory, and after exposure to drugs of abuse. Understanding how PNNs are altered in normal physiology and disease will offer insights into new treatment approaches for these diseases."
 
Dr. Adie Wilson-PoeDr. Adie Wilson-Poe joins LRI from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis where she received a K99/R00 award from the NIH to investigate the “Role of CB1 Receptors in Opioid Tolerance during Pain”.   Using strong mentoring and outreach skills, she will continue the R00 portion of her grant at LRI as she pursues more translational aspects of her work, aiming to improve human health and wellbeing by bridging the gap between preclinical cannabinoid pharmacology and clinical cannabis medicine.   
 
Her work has focused on showing how cannabinoids might significantly reduce the need for opioids in pain, thereby reducing abuse liability of opioids.  Emerging evidence now exists to show that cannabinoids may be a powerful tool in the alleviation pain while reducing the need for opioids, which has huge implications for the growing opioid epidemic. Cannabinoids have both pain-reducing and mood-supporting properties, both of which are important benefits for individuals suffering from pain and opioid dependence. 
 
This work is an absolutely critical mechanistic look into what is observed at an epidemiological level, and the potential magnitude of its public health impact cannot be overstated.  Dr. Wilson-Poe tells us that "By far the most rewarding thing about my work is its potential impact on global health. For humans to have the opportunity to decrease their reliance upon dangerous pharmaceuticals and have more agency over their own health is an incredibly important moment in medicine. I feel very privileged to contribute to this body of evidence.”