Lab Members

Principal Investigator:

Howard B. Gutstein, MD


The primary focus of Dr. Gutstein’s research has been the molecular mechanism underlying the development of opioid tolerance and dependence and the interactions between pain and analgesic signaling. Opioids such as morphine are the most effective pain treatments currently available.  However, these drugs are ineffective against many types of cancer pain, and with chronic use, the efficacy of opioids decreases as tolerance develops. Dr. Gutstein has utilized proteomics, Drosophila genetics, as well as behavioral neuropharmacology in an effort to determine a priori which signaling adaptations can cause maladaptive changes in response to pain or narcotics. Recently, Dr. Gutstein has identified a mechanism responsible for opioid tolerance and was the first to demonstrate that mechanisms underlying tolerance can be completely dissociated from the pain-relieving effects of opioids. He has also identified ways to eliminate or reverse tolerance in vivo. Dr. Gutstein has also determined the reason why opioids are ineffective in cases of neuropathic pain

Post-doctoral Associates:

Stephanie Puig, PhD-

Stephanie’s current research focuses on understanding the involvement of growth factors in opioid analgesic tolerance. Her approach combines behavioral, biochemical, immunohistochemical and cell culture methods. She hopes that her findings will help to untangle the complicated mechanisms that lead to opioid inefficacy in the context of tolerance and neuropathic pain. She has a strong interest in working with a translational research approach in order to make her studies relevant to the clinic.

She holds a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Paris Descartes (France), where she studied the influence of the pattern of cocaine administration on behavioral and neurochemical modifications in the mesolimbic system in rats.

In her spared time, Stephanie loves to dance and read as well as to do outdoors activities (horse riding, biking), but what she loves the most is to spend time with her family and her friends!

Roger Lopez-Bellido, PhD-

My long-term career goal is to better understand pain mechanisms and to discover new analgesic drugs more effective and safe than morphine. I have developed expertise in different animal models of pain (mouse, rat, zebrafish, toad, and drosophila).

Ultimately, I plan to perform research independently on pain, and hopefully find better analgesic drugs to benefit of the many patients who suffer with intractable pain.

In my free time I like jogging, play soccer, and share with my family and friends

Research Staff:

Pamela M. White, RN, BSN, CCRC- Pam has over 13 years of extensive clinical research experience at the University of Pittsburgh.  Her study roles will be to actively perform research related activities involving subject interaction, recruitment, scheduling and clinical trial related conduct, as well as submission of regulatory documents to the University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board (IRB) and other regulatory bodies associated with the conduct of clinical trials.

Ashley Robertson, BS-  Ashley is a native Pittsburgher and got her degree from the Ohio State University.  She has extensive experience in biomedical research for the military.  She is a research technician in the Gutstein Lab.  Ashley’s hope is to obtain her Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Shelby Szott- Shelby is a Sophmore at the University of Pittsburgh Honors College, Neuroscience major.  She assists Stephanie in computing research data collected from the basic research while maintaining full-time student status.