Allison Doyle Brackley is The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Highlighted Trainee Author for August 2021. Dr. Brackley is a postdoctoral trainee in the Cellular & Integrative Physiology Department at UT Health, San Antonio. Her mentor is Dr. Glenn M. Toney. The JPET article that earned her selection as a Highlighted Trainee Author is titled “Oxytocin Receptor Activation Rescues Opioid-induced Respiratory Depression by Systemic Fentanyl in the Rat” and is available at https://doi.org/10.1124/jpet.121.000535.
As a predoctoral fellow, Dr. Brackley’s doctoral work focused on understanding protein-protein interactions that mediate nociception and modulate opioid analgesia. As a postdoctoral fellow, she expanded her technical capabilities to investigate respiratory neurophysiology and network adaptations under conditions of excess opioid tone. This work has earned her an American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship, first-author peer-reviewed publications, and a national and international provisional patent “Compositions and methods for preventing, reducing and reversing opioid-induced respiratory depression,” on which she and her mentor are the co-inventors.
Clinical opioid overdose reversal by opioid receptor antagonists, like naloxone, results in severe pain and stress in resuscitated patients. To address this problem, one aspect of Dr. Brackley’s research focuses on the hypothalamic hormone oxytocin. This neuropeptide has well-documented analgesic properties, can reduce withdrawal-related elevations in the stress hormone cortisol, and can stimulate respiration when nanoinjected into specific regions of the extended respiratory network. Her postdoctoral work recently led to the discovery that targeting the oxytocin receptor reverses respiratory arrest by fentanyl. Currently, she is identifying circuit and neurochemical mechanisms of respiratory homeostasis and its disruption by elevated opioid tonus present in individuals suffering from opioid use disorder and sleep apnea, thereby leading to respiratory hypersensitivity to opioids and pain.
The anticipated impact of Dr. Brackley’s current research is that targeting oxytocin receptors for rescue from opioid overdose could eliminate or attenuate negative side effects associated with opioid receptor antagonism, including loss of analgesia, mood disturbances, and painful withdrawal symptoms.
When not in the lab, Allison loves spending time with her family and enjoys photography. She is also passionate about translational science communication and has participated in numerous outreach invitations, including local STEM groups, medical ethics symposia, and a regional summit on prescription drug misuse for the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Awareness and Texas Health & Human Services.