Edna Santos is The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Highlighted Trainee Author for the July 2022 issue. She is a PhD Candidate in the laboratory of Dr. S. Stevens Negus, her mentor in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. The JPET article that earned her selection as the Highlighted Trainee Author is titled “Role of Efficacy as a Determinant of Locomotor Activation by Mu Opioid Receptor Ligands in Female and Male Mice” and is available at https://doi.org/10.1124/jpet.121.001045.
Ms. Santos’s primary research areas are focused on validating novel preclinical assays of translational pain-related behaviors and using those assays to evaluate the role of mu-opioid receptor (MOR) ligand efficacy as a determinant of opioid analgesic effects and side effects. Her working hypothesis is that low-efficacy MOR agonists may retain sufficient activity to produce analgesia but not produce many problematic side effects. Important pharmacological tools for this research include both a) fixed-proportion opioid agonist/antagonist mixtures, which allow precise control of net efficacy by adjusting the agonist proportion in the mixture, and b) novel low-efficacy and selective MOR agonists provided to her by collaborators. Overall, her training as a behavioral pharmacologist focuses on understanding the expression, mechanisms, and treatment of different pain states. The central focus of her thesis work is on investigating MOR ligand efficacy in treating acute pain, chronic neuropathic pain, and pain-related neurochemical changes in the brain reward system.
The anticipated impact of Ms. Santos’s research is to find novel analgesics such as low-efficacy opioids that can be used to treat pain without the most dangerous side effects associated with high-efficacy opioids commonly used to treat pain.
When not working in the lab, Edna enjoys boxing, weightlifting, and nature walks. She also loves to spend quality time with her family and pets.