University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content
Tracey                         Ignatowski

Tracey A. Ignatowski PhD

Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences

Assistant Professor

Specialty/Research Focus

Behavioral pharmacology; Gene Expression; Gene therapy; Immunology; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Molecular Basis of Disease; Neurobiology; Neuroimmunology; Neuropharmacology; Protein Function and Structure; Signal Transduction

Professional Summary:

My research spans three interrelated fields: chronic pain, depression and inflammation. Experiments in my laboratory focus on how brain-derived pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF), function as modulators of brain-body interactions during neuropathic pain and how brain-TNF is involved in the mechanism of action of antidepressant drugs. My overall goal is to advance knowledge of, and therapeutic efficacy for pain, depression, neuro-inflammation and drug addiction.

This research is based on my earlier work showing that neurons produce the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF and that the production of TNF by macrophages is regulated by neurotransmitters. Cytokines and neurotransmitters are principal signaling molecules that mediate bidirectional communication between the nervous and immune systems--the crosstalk important in maintaining homeostasis. Consequently, aberrant production of either of these two classes of mediators could profoundly affect signaling by the other, thereby impacting health. A shift in balanced cytokine-neuron interactions that regulate neurotransmitter release in the central nervous system (CNS), and that have potential behavioral consequences, manifest themselves as states of depression and chronic pain. My research uses both cell systems and animal models to test these hypotheses. Colleagues and I use a combination of imaging techniques to localize cytokine production, bioassays and ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays) for pharmacological and functional analyses, electrophysiological (brain slice stimulation) and molecular methods for our studies.

In addition to investigating neuron functioning in the brain, trainees in my laboratory also study the peripheral macrophage, a major source of TNF during inflammation. Specifically studying neurotransmitter regulation of TNF production in the periphery is enhancing our knowledge of how the brain controls a peripheral inflammatory lesion. Our studies are designed to investigate the mechanisms of centrally mediated pain as associated with immune dysfunction and to elucidate mechanisms of drugs used to treat such pain states.

My projects are evolving to investigate the mechanisms and neural pathways involved in TNF neuromodulator functions during chronic pain (due to peripheral nerve injury and diabetes) and stress-induced depressive behavior. We also study mechanisms contributing to the comorbidity of chronic pain and depression.

I collaborate with researchers in several UB departments and at other institutions. Our projects include using noninvasive methods for delivery of anti-TNF therapeutics for chronic pain, elucidating the neural-immune mechanisms involved in the rapid recovery afforded by centrally administered anti-TNF therapy and using nanotechnology-mediated, targeted gene silencing within the CNS.

I am invested in helping my undergraduate and graduate students, medical residents and postdoctoral fellows realize their potential and achieve their goals. Previous students have advanced professionally and hold clinical, academic and industrial positions.

Education and Training:
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Pharmacology and Physiology, University of Rochester (1997)
  • PhD, Pathology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (1995)
  • BS, Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Cum Laude (1990)
  • Assistant Professor, Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (2015-present)
  • Research Assistant Professor, Anesthesiology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (1997-present)
  • Research Associate Professor, Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (2011–2015)
  • Research Assistant Professor, Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (1999–2011)
Awards and Honors:
  • Cambridge Who‘s Who, Honored Member (2011)
  • Who's Who in America (2008)
  • Outstanding Poster Presentation Award (ESICM) (1999)
  • Notter Award Recipient (1997)
  • Young Investigator Travel Award (1996)
  • American Society for Investigative Pathology Student Travel Award (1995)
  • Young Investigator Travel Award (1995)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow Poster Competition Award (1995)
  • Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges (1993)
  • Golden Key National Honor Society (1990)
  • Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED) (1989)

Research Expertise:
  • Small animal surgery; Electrophysiology: Chronic contriction injury (CCI); Stereotaxic surgery and implantation of brain infusion cannula; Peritoneal lavage. Electrical stimulation/depolarization of brain tissue slices; superfusion of brain tissue slices.
Grants and Sponsored Research:
  • September 2012–June 2017
    Ionic Mechanisms Underlying Dorsal Root Ganglion Excitability
    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • January 2004–June 2006
    The Effect of Brain-derived Tumor Necrosis Factor-? (TNF?) on Macrophage Functioning in the Peripheral Inflammatory Lesion during Neuropathic Pain
    United Spinal Association/Eastern Paralyzed Research Association
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • April 2001–March 2006
    Brain-derived TNF and Adrenergic Responses in Neuropathic Pain
    National Institutes of Health
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • January 2001–December 2003
    Brain-derived Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) and Its Effect on Peripheral Macrophage Functioning during Neuropathic Pain
    The Charles Dana Foundation
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • July 1999–June 2001
    Brain-associated TNF and Adrenergic Responsiveness: A Role in the Mechanism of Tricyclic Antidepressant Action.
    National Alliance of Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD)
    Role: Principal Investigator

Journal Articles:
See all (26 more)
Evaluative Studies and Case Reports:

Professional Memberships:
  • Eastern Pain Association (2004–present)
  • International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) (2004–present)
  • Society for Neuroscience (1996–present)
Service Activities:
  • Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Admissions Committee; Alternate Member (2006)
  • Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Graduate; Member (2001)
  • Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Department Council; Member (1999)
  • Bonica Award Committee, Eastern Pain Association; Appointed to choose recipient of the prestigious Bonica Award that honors an outstanding researcher/clinician in the field of pain medicine.; Member (2005)
  • Invited Speaker, Career Education Program, Herbert Hoover Middle School, Buffalo, NY; Invited Participant (1999–2000)

School News:
In the Media:

Clinical Specialties:
Clinical Offices:
Insurance Accepted:

Contact Information

206 Farber Hall
University at Buffalo
3435 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214
Phone: 716-829-3102
Fax: 716-829-2911

Log in to Update Your Profile