Dr. Erin Milligan received her Ph.D. in 2000 at the University of Colorado in Boulder, examining the role of glial cells in the spinal cord that are directly involved in generating neuropathic pain. She continued her post-doctoral training at the University of Colorado in Boulder and in 2004 became Assistant Research Professor and was awarded a National Institute of Health on Drug Abuse research grant examining spinal interleukin-10 gene therapy to control pathological pain for potential clinical applications. In 2007, she moved to the University of New Mexico, Health Sciences Center where she continued to conduct research related to IL-10 gene therapy for pain, but also examined the role of infiltrating immune cells into the spinal cord that worsen and prolong neuropathies. Additionally, she has expanded her program to examine adverse in utero conditions such as with prenatal alcohol exposure that alters spinal sensory signaling predisposing one to develop neuropathy following very minor insults, which typically go unnoticed in healthy individuals.

Areas of Specialty

Neuropathic pain
Spinal cord
Pain therapeutics


Post-Doc, Behavioral Neuroscience (2003):
University of Boulder 
Boulder, CO

Phd, Behavioral Neuroscience (2000):
University of Boulder 
Boulder, CO

MA, Psychology (1995):
San Francisco State University
San Francisco, CA

BA, Psychology (1993):
San Francisco State University
San Francisco, CA

Achievements & Awards

  • Research Excellence Award, UNM HSC - 2011
  • Regents’ Lectureship Award UNM-HSC - 2010-2013
  • Rauth Family Basic Scientist Award – UNM-HSC - 2010
  • NIDA Cutting Edge Biomedical Research Award - Phase I - 2002-2004
Provisional Patents
  • “Use of Microparticles to Optimize Gene Therapy”. CU TTO File No. CU2443B-PPA2.
  • “Protocells and Their Use for Pain Treatment”. Provisional Application No. 61/251,439, US Patent & Trademark Office Attorney Docket No. 0023.0094
  • “Compact Biosensor of Matrix Metalloproteinase with Cadmium Free Quantum Dots”. Provisional Application No. 61/492,680, US Patent & Trademark Office Docket No. 310.00730160.
  • “Therapies to control neuropathic pain”. Provisional Application No. 61/875,264, US Patent & Trademark Office Docket No.N12-220PROV2.
  • “Control of Chronic Neuropathic Pain and Allodynia”. Provisional Application No. 14/196,343, US Patent & Trademark Office Docket No.N12-239US.

Key Publications

  • Milligan, E.D. and Watkins, L.R. Pathological and Protective Roles of Glia in Chronic Pain. Nature Review Neuroscience, Jan;10 (2009) 23-36.
  • Noor, S.,, Sanchez, J.J., Vanderwall, A.G., Sun, M.S., Maxwell, J.R., Davies, S., Jantzie, L.L., Savage, D. and Milligan, E.D. Prenatal alcohol exposure potentiates chronic neuropathic pain, spinal glial and immune cell activation and alters sciatic nerve and DRG cytokine levels. Brain, Behavior and Immunity (2017), Mar;61:80-95. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.12.016.
  • Vanderwall, A.G., Noor, S., Sun, MS., Sanchez, JE., Yang, XO., Jantzie, LL., Mellios, N., and Milligan, E.D. Effects of spinal non-viral interleukin-10 gene therapy formulated with D-mannose in neuropathic interleukin-10 deficient mice: behavioral characterization, mRNA and protein analysis in pain relevant tissues. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, (2017), DOI:10.1016/j.bbi.2016.12.016
  • Noor S, Sanchez, J.J., Sun, M.S., Pervin, Z., Sanchez, J.E., Havard, M/ A., Epler, L., Nysus, M.V., Norenberg, J.P., Wagner, C.R., Davies, S., Savage, D.D., Jantzie, L.L., Mellios, N., and Milligan ED. Neuropathic pain susceptibility in prenatal alcohol exposed female rats can be reversed by modulating peripheral immune and spinal astrocyte actions by blocking LFA-1. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, (2020), DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.01.002.
  • Sanchez JJ,* Noor S,* Sun MS, Harris NW, Davies S, Savage DD, Milligan ED. The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure are life-long: susceptibility to peripheral neuropathy and alterations in spinal cytokine actions. Journal of Neuroinflammation, (2017), 14:254. DOI 10.1186/s12974-017-1030-3.
  • Wilkerson, J.L., Alberti, L.B., Kerwin, A.A., Ledent, C.A., Thakur, G.A., Makriyannia, A., and Milligan, E.D. Peripheral versus central mechanisms of the cannabinoid type 2 receptor agonist AM1710 in a mouse model of neuropathic pain. Brain and Behavior. (2020), DOI: 10.1002/brb3.1850


She, her


  • English


My lab is interested in two major areas: 1. Existing pain treatments are often suboptimal for pain relief in less than half of the 15 million US pain patients, underscoring the necessity to identify new, non-opioid pain drugs. My lab examines the role of peripheral immune cells and spinal glia in causing chronic neuropathy, and we are exploring new pain drugs. 2. Lifelong susceptibility to developing peripheral neuropathies as a consequence of prenatal alcohol exposure are explored in my lab, with an emphasis on elucidating neuroimmune cytokine mechanisms in the peripheral and central nervous system in male and female rodent models.

Courses Taught

  • Colloidal Nanocrystals for Biomedical Applications.
  • Neuroscience anatomy laboratories for the Phase I School of Medicine undergraduate curriculum
  • Opioid Pharmacology for the Phase I School of Medicine undergraduate curriculum
  • Pain Pathways for the Phase I School of Medicine undergraduate curriculum
  • Neurobiology (Biomed 509): Neurotransmitters, Peptides & non-conventional transmitters, Neurotrophic Factors, Spinal Reflexes
  • Neurochemistry (Biomed 532): Nonclassical neurotransmitters, Neuroimmunology
  • Neurobiology of Alcoholism (Biomed 505): Effect of ethanol on neuroinflammation