Current Scholars (U-M TOPICs)

University of Michigan’s TMJD and
Orofacial Pain Interdisciplinary Consortium
Training Grant (K12DE023574)

Junior Faculty

Chunxi Ge, MD, PhD

Dr. Ge completed his MD (1997) and PhD (2002) from two top-tier medical schools in the People’s Republic of China, the Harbin Medical University and Sun Yat-sen Medical College, respectively. He initially pursued important research on dengue virus and molecular virology of disease transmission by mosquito vectors that resulted in 12 publications.

Dr. Ge joined Dr.Renny Franceschi’s laboratory In 2003 where he has been highly productive in determining how the extracellular signal related kinase/MAPK pathway’s control bone development by phosphorylation of Runx2.

Dr. Ge’s K12-funded studies are focused on elucidating the role of the ERK/MAPK dependent Runx2 phosphorylation in the pathogenesis of TMJ osteoarthritis. His primary mentor is Dr. Renny Franceschi and secondary mentor is Dr. Sunil Kapila.

Rhima Coleman, PhD

Dr. Coleman received her Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology where she studied mesenchymal stem cell-derived tissue-engineering strategies to treat growth plate injury in a small animal model. During her postdoctoral training, she acquired both imaging and biological techniques to assess the changes in cartilage proteoglycan composition that will contribute to our understanding of the interrelationship between proteoglycan morphology and chondrocyte mineralization.

At the University of Michigan, her research is aimed at directing stem cell behavior by engineering their external microenvironment. Her K12 proposal explores the mechanism of mechanotransduction in neural crest-derived fibrochondrocytes mediated by the Bmpr1a receptor. She will explore how the composition and stiffness of the extracellular matrix environment interacts with Bmpr1a activity to modulate intracellular mechanotransduction pathways regulated by BMPs. The outcome of this research will be a basic understanding of the microenvironmental cues involved in the development of TMJ cartilages and their response to the loading environment of the TMJ in the context of the BMPr1a receptor. The impact to the field will be twofold: 1) it will enhance efforts to tissue engineer TMJ cartilages and 2) it is a first step toward predicting the loading and microenvironmental conditions that will lead to osteoarthritis in the TMJ.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Jonah Lee, MS, PhD

Dr. Lee completed his MS in Pediatric exercise Science (2007) and PhD in Human Bioenergetics (2010) both from Ball State University, Muncie, IN. His doctoral research focused on human protein metabolism in response to exercise and involved studies of protein turnover and aging skeletal muscle.

He completed an initial postdoctoral fellowship (2010- 2013) at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, with funding from the Ellison Medical Foundation/American Federation of Aging Research (EPD12102). Here his research focused on understanding the role of satellite cells and muscle stem cells in aged-skeletal muscle maintenance and hypertrophy.

Dr. Lee joined Dr. Lisa Larkin’s laboratory at the University of Michigan as a postdoctoral fellow in September 2013, where his expertise in skeletal muscle adaptation and stem cell biology are being applied to tissue engineering for musculoskeletal repair and regeneration. His current project on “Tissue Engineering Complex Musculoskeletal Structures for Repair of Degenerative TMJ Tissues” is being performed under the primary mentorship of Dr. Lisa Larkin and secondary mentorship of Dr. Sunil Kapila.

Daniel Harper, PhD

Dr. Harper completed his MA in Psychology (2011) and PhD in Psychology (2014) in the Behavioral Neuroscience Program from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. During his time at this institution, he has coauthored articles on understanding pain and tactile processing abnormalities in TMJD and fibromyalgia patients.

With funding from The King Research Excellence Award, Daniel built an apparatus to test the thermal grill illusion of pain, a phenomenon that is thought to be related to the cold allodynia observed in some types of neuropathic pain.

His psychophysical doctoral research showed that the pain of the illusion is supplied by the cool bars of the grill, which transmit the pain signals to the brain via dorsal horn convergent neurons.

With funding from the K12 award, Dr. Harper joined Drs. Daniel Clauw’s and Richard Harris’ laboratory at the University of Michigan in June 2014. Daniel will undertake a new line of research, which will utilize proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H-MRS) and other neuroimaging techniques aimed at identifying and characterizing central stimulus-processing abnormalities in TMJD patients.

Andrew Schrepf, PhD

Andrew Schrepf is currently supported by a Ruth L. Kirschstein F31 National Research Service Award from the National Cancer Institute as a doctoral student in Healthy Psychology at the University of Iowa (anticipated graduation Spring, 2015). He has worked with both animal models and clinical populations to explore the impact of inflammatory processes on affective disturbances such as anxiety and depression in ovarian cancer patients, and on pain perception in a population of urologic chronic pelvic pain patients.

Andrew’s training has focused heavily on assays of inflammatory processes in clinical populations, psychometrics, and advanced quantitative methods. He has worked extensively in the Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Chronic Pelvic Pain (MAPP) network, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, researching biomarkers of chronic pelvic pain and mechanistic correlates of symptoms.

Andrew’s dissertation research focuses on the role of Toll-Like Receptors in circulating immune cells of these patients as markers and correlates of disease severity, with a particular emphasis on comorbid pain conditions and central pain sensitization.

Andrew will be joining UM-TOPICs in Fall, 2015, where he plans to research inflammation, neuroimaging, and quantitative sensory testing in an effort to identify phenotypes of TMJD, with the ultimate goal of identifying different etiological factors and novel treatment strategies.