Jennifer Cook

Ph.D. 2019

E-MAIL: [email protected]

Undergraduate Institution and Major:

Texas A&M University, B.S. in Biomedical Science, 2009

Thesis Title:

Complement-3a receptor involvement in peripheral and central neuropathic pain.

Current Position:

Assistant Professor, Syracuse University

Graduate Advisor:

Lucy Vulchanova, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience

Description of Graduate Research:

Neuropathic pain is a significant public health problem, which comprises a large percentage of visits to pain clinics and has a significant monetary impact on healthcare costs. Following injury there are endogenous nociceptive signals sent from sensory neurons to dorsal horn neurons. Understanding the mechanisms that allow for prolonged pro-nociceptive signaling in the dorsal horn is vital for understanding the transition from acute to chronic pain. The novel neuropeptide precursor VGF has been implicated in a wide variety of neural processes, including learning, memory, depression, and chronic pain. We have shown that the VGF-derived peptide TLQP-21 contributes to both the development and maintenance of hypersensitivity after peripheral nerve injury and inflammation. The effects of TLQP-21 are mediated by the complement 3a receptor C3aR1, and we have demonstrated that hyperalgesia evoked by intrathecally administered TLQP-21 depends on C3aR1 activation. Upregulation of C3aR1 in microglia has been found following CNS injury, and my results indicate that TLQP-21 evokes calcium transients in cultured primary microglia. Additionally, we have found that TLQP-21/C3aR1 signaling is increased following peripheral nerve injury specifically in dorsal horn microglia. The goal of my project is to investigate TLQP-21/C3aR1 mediated microglial signaling after injury and to examine the potential contribution of microglia to neuropathic pain.

Graduate Level Publications:

  • Doolen S*, Cook J*, Riedl M, Kitto K, Kohsaka S, Honda CN, Fairbanks CA, Taylor BK, Vulchanova L. Complement 3a receptor in dorsal horn microglia mediates pronociceptive neuropeptide signaling. PMID: 28850719 Glia. 2017;65:1976-1989. (*indicates co-first author)
  • Yang Q, Liu X, Zhou T, Cook J, Nguyen K, Bai X. RNA polymerase II pausing modulates hematopoietic stem cell emergence in zebrafish. Blood. 2016;128:1701-1710.
  • Linsenbardt HR, Cook JL, Young EE, Vichaya EG, Young CR, Reusser NM, Welsh CJ, Meagher MW. Social disruption alters pain and cognition in an animal model of Multiple Sclerosis. J Neuroimmunol. 2015;288:56-68.

Graduate Level Abstracts:

Oral Presentations:

  • The complement 3a receptor in spinal cord injury. Oral presentation at Department of Neuroscience Colloquium Series, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, January 17, 2018.
  • Complement 3a Receptor in Dorsal Horn Microglia Mediates Pronociceptive Neuropeptide Signaling. Oral presentation at Department of Neuroscience Colloquium Series, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, April 12, 2017.
  • Complement receptor-mediated effects of the VGF peptide TLQP-21. Oral presentation at Department of Neuroscience Colloquium Series, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, April 20, 2016.

Poster Presentations:

  • Cook JL, Chan A, Kitto K, Huffman C, Fairbanks CA, Parr A, Vulchanova L. The complement 3a receptor in spinal cord injury. Abstract for poster presentation, International Association for the Study of Pain Abstracts, Boston, MA, 2018.
  • Cook JL, Kitto K, Riedl MS, Honda CN, Fairbanks CA, Vulchanova L. Interaction of VGF-derived peptides in microglial signaling. Abstract for poster presentation, Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, Washington, D.C., 2017.
  • Cook JL, Riedl M, Kitto K, Fairbanks C, Vulchanova L. Activation of microglial C3aR1 by the VGF-derived peptide TLQP-21 may contribute to nerve-injury induced hypersensitivity. Abstract for poster presentation, Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, San Diego, CA, 2016.
  • Cook JL, Kitto K, Riedl M, Fairbanks C, Vulchanova L. Complement-mediated effects of the VGF peptide TLQP-21. Journal of Pain; abstract for American Pain Society Meeting, Austin, TX, 2016.
  • Cook JL, Riedl MS, Maxon J, Parr AM, Vulchanova L. Characterization of spinal VGF expression and localization following spinal cord injury. Abstract for poster presentation, Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, Chicago, IL, 2015.

Graduate Level Awards and Honors: 

  • F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, NINDS, 2016-present
  • Sping and Ying Ngoh Lin Award, 2016

Professional Outreach:

  • Volunteer at the Annual Brain Bee Competition, Minneapolis, MN 2016-present
  • Brain Awareness Week Instructor, various schools across the Twin Cities, 2013-present
  • Science Fair Judge, Murray Middle School, 2013 - present

Professional Memberships:

  • Society For Neuroscience, 2014 - present
  • American Pain Society, 2015 - present

GPN Committees:

  • Steering Committee, 2016 – 2018
  • Faculty Status Committee, 2015 – 2017
  • Mentorship Committee, 2015- 2017

Thesis Committee Members:

Carolyn Fairbainks, Ph.D., Department of Pharmaceutics and Neuroscience(Chair), Department of Neuroscience

Lucy Vulchanova, Ph.D. Department of Neuroscience

Ann Parr, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Neurosurgery

Yasushi Nakagawa, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience

Bradley Taylor, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, Department of Physiology

Research Areas:

  • Neurobiology of Pain and Somatosensation


Why Did You Choose UMN?

I was looking for a program with a strong collection of renowned pain researchers. The University of Minnesota has such a community, including over a dozen faculty members with close collaborations. Additionally, our pain group at Minnesota is well integrated into the global community of pain research.

What Advice Would You Give a First Year Graduate Student?

Study hard, ask for help, and keep in perspective the fact that you are getting some of the best Neuroscience education in the world.



Jennifer Cook