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Dr. Qiufu Ma received his BS from Fudan University in 1987 and PhD from UCLA in 1994. After postdoctoral training with Dr. David Anderson at Caltech, he became an Assistant Professor at Harvard Neurobiology Department and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and become a full Professor in 2011. He was a Pew Scholar from 2000-2004. Since 2007, he has been serving as the Faculty Director of the Office for Postdoctoral Training and Career Development.
Dr. Ma has been working on neural circuits transmitting somatic sensory information, and more recently on the neural basis of acupuncture. The lab initially focused on studying the genetic programs that control the development of somatic sensory circuits. Major contributions include the identification of i) Neurogenin1 essential for genesis of peripheral nociceptors, ii) Runx1 that specifies sensory neurons that innervate exclusively the cutaneous ectodermal tissues and control the expression of a large cohort of sensory channels and receptors, and iii) Tlx3 that controls the formation of dorsal spinal excitatory neurons that transmit pain- and itch-related information. These developmental studies have also laid down the foundation for the second phase of research: using novel genetic tools to map spinal circuits. During the past seven years, in collaboration with Dr. Martyn Goulding at Salk, his lab developed the innovative intersectional genetic strategy to mark, ablate or silence a large cohort of molecularly defined excitatory and inhibitory neurons. Subsequent behavioral and electrophysiological studies have uncovered microcircuits that transmit and gate mechanical pain or itch, or transmit the affective versus the defensive dimensions of pain evoked from the skin. For ongoing studies in the lab, they are now developing new tools to study different dimensions of pain evoked from deep tissues.
The mapping of these somatic sensory circuits forms the foundation for for studying the neural basis of acupuncture. Specifically, built upon their deep understanding on the anatomical organization of the somatic sensory system, they want to understand how stimulation of different body regions, or different tissue layers of the same body region could drive different autonomic reflexes, which could be the entry point to understand how acupuncture could modulate body physiology and treat diseases.
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