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Megan Detloff

Megan Detloff, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department: Neurobiology & Anatomy


  • BS - Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan (2002)
  • PhD - Neuroscience, The Ohio State University (2009)

Megan Detloff, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine. After completing her PhD at The Ohio State University under the mentorship of D. Michele Basso in 2009, she came to the College of Medicine for a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of John Houlé.

Research Interests

Neuropathic pain, spinal cord injury, neuroimmune interactions, neuroplasticity, nociceptors, behavior


My research is focused on understanding the molecular underpinnings that contribute to the development of chronic, debilitating neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury. This pain can be described as the pain of everyday living. Normal activities like wearing a t-shirt or testing the temperature of bath water are perceived as painful. There are two active lines of research ongoing in the lab.

  1. Neuroimmune interactions associated with pain development after injury. Traumatic injury to the spinal cord induces a robust immune and inflammatory response at the site of primary injury. Recent evidence from our lab and others suggests that these responses are not limited to the site of injury, but rather extend to remote regions of the spinal cord, brain and dorsal root ganglia. We are focused on understanding how a specific type of immune cells called macrophages interact with pain-sensing neurons after injury to result in their dysfunction.
  2. Rehabilitative strategies to prevent or reduce chronic neuropathic pain after injury. Physical therapy and rehabilitation is the standard of care for individuals who have sustained a spinal cord injury. In the lab, we use animal models of both injury and rehabilitation to understand how aerobic, resistance or range-of-motion exercises can induce plasticity or alterations in the anatomical and functional properties of pain sensing neurons.

Lab Members

Joseph Arena
Jonathan Richards
Victor Rovira Zambrana
Meredith Singer
John Walker


Students currently have the opportunity to learn a wide variety of behavioral and neuroanatomical techniques in the lab:

Surgical: Stereotactic brain and spinal cord surgery, infusions of neurotoxins, retrograde and anterograde fluorescent labeling.
Behavioral: Sensory testing, use of the BBB and FLS locomotor rating scales, gait analysis, development of rehabilitative strategies for functional recovery.
Neuroanatomical: Immunocytochemistry, tract tracing, stereologic cell counting.
Molecular: quantitative-PCR, microarray analysis of microRNA, Western blot, ELISA, flow cytometry, FACS.
Electrophysiological: Whole-cell patch electrophysiology.

Active Funding

Principal Investigator 
Title: Regulation of neuropathic pain by exercise: effects on nociceptor plasticity and inflammation
The overall objective of this proposal is to determine the how exercise alters the role of myeloid cells (macrophages) that infiltrate the dorsal root ganglia after a spinal cord injury to affect nociceptor excitability and the development and persistence of neuropathic pain.

Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Grant # 457508
Principal Investigator
Title: Strength training to reduce nociceptor plasticity and SCI-induced pain
The major goal of this project is to establish a possible mechanism by which strength training exercise acts as a potent and effective treatment to alter the primary afferent response and reduce SCI-induced neuropathic pain.

NINDS R01 #12642026
Title: Neuron-specific nanotherapeutics for spinal cord injury repair
This work is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Jeoung Soo Lee of Clemson University Department of Bioengineering. The major goal of this project is to develop a polymer micelle nanotherapeutic that has the potential to deliver pharmacological agents and/or gene therapies to the site of traumatic spinal cord injury in order to improve functional recovery.

NIH NIMH #R43MH119734
Title: HabiTrak: low-cost, wireless home cage health and activity monitoring.
This work is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Sloan of Vulintus, LLC. The objective of this application is to develop a home cage health and activity monitoring system. The Detloff Lab will serve as beta testers and use prototypes with injured animals.


"Exercise-Induced Changes to the Macrophage Response in the Dorsal Root Ganglia Prevent Neuropathic Pain after Spinal Cord Injury"
Chhaya SJ, Quiros-Molina D, Tamashiro-Orrego AD, Houlé JD, Detloff MR
J Neurotrauma. doi: 10.1089/neu.2018.5819. [Epub ahead of print] Oct 18, 2018

"Translational Challenges of Rat Models of Upper Extremity Dysfunction After Spinal Cord Injury"
Krisa L, Runyen M, Detloff MR
Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil.;24(3):195-205. Review, Summer 2018

"Delayed Exercise Is Ineffective at Reversing Aberrant Nociceptive Afferent Plasticity or Neuropathic Pain After Spinal Cord Injury in Rats"
Detloff MR, Quiros-Molina D, Javia AS, Daggubati L, Nehlsen AD, Naqvi A, Ninan V, Vannix KN, McMullen MK, Amin S, Ganzer PD, Houlé JD.
Neurorehabil Neural Repair.;30(7):685-700, Aug 2016

"Acute exercise prevents the development of neuropathic pain and the sprouting of non-peptidergic (GDNF- and artemin-responsive) c-fibers after spinal cord injury"
Detloff, MR, Smith, EJ, Quiros Molina D, Ganzer PD, Houlé JD
Experimental Neurology; 255C:38-48, 2014

"Chronic at- and below-level pain following unilateral cervical spinal cord contusion in rats"
Detloff, MR, Wade, Jr. RE, Houlé, JD
Journal of Neurotrauma; 30(10):884-90. PMID 23216008, 2013

"Plasticity in ascending long propriospinal and descending supraspinal pathways in chronic cervical spinal cord injured rats"
Côté, M-P, Detloff, MR*, Wade, Jr. R.E., Houlé, JD (*indicates authors contributed equally)
Front Physiol; 3:330. PMID 22934078, 2012

"Acute and chronic tactile sensory testing after spinal cord injury in rats"
Detloff MR, Fisher LC, Deibert RJ, Basso DM
Journal of Visualized Experiments; (62), e3247, DOI: 10.3791/3247. PMID 2250841, 2012

"Exercise modulates microRNAs that affect the PTEN/mTOR pathway in rats after spinal cord injury"
Liu G, Detloff MR*, Miller KN, Santi L, Houlé, JD (*indicates authors contributed equally)
Experimental Neurology. Epub Ahead of Print. PMCID: PMC3268901, 2011

"Validity of acute and chronic tactile sensory testing after spinal cord injury in rats"
Detloff MR, Clark LM, Fisher LC, Hutchinson KJ, Kloos AD, Basso DM
Experimental Neurology; 225(2): 366-76. PMID 20643128, 2010

"Remote activation of microglia and pro-inflammatory cytokines predict the onset and severity of below-level neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury in rats"
Detloff MR, Fisher LC, Longbrake EE, McGaughy V, Popovich PG, Basso DM
Experimental Neurology; 212: 337 - 347. PMID 18511041, 2008
**Evaluated by Faculty of 1000.

"Stepwise motor and all-or-none sensory recovery is associated with non-linear sparing after incremental spinal cord injury in rats"
Kloos AD, Fisher LC, Detloff MR, Hassenzahl DL, Basso DM
Experimental Neurology; 191(2): 251-265. PMID 15649480, 2005

View all of Dr. Detloff's publications in PubMed

Contact Information

Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy
2900 W. Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19129
Phone: 215.991.8986
Fax: 215.843.9082