The Accelerating Excellence In Translational Science (AXIS)Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science

Dr. Victor V. Chaban

Victor V. Chaban, Ph.D., is a researcher with a drive to explore new answers to basic science questions. Specifically, much of Dr. Chaban’s work has focused on understanding how hormones like estrogen modulate the experience of pain. Dr. Chaban hopes that this research will one day open up new therapeutic avenues for people with functional diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, painful bladder syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, and fibromyalgia. Dr. Chaban thrives on taking on old scientific paradigms, noting, “If you do something that nobody has done before—this can really drive you.”

In functional diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, the pain doesn’t seem to have an organic cause, i.e., there is no actual inflammation or injury present in the affected system. Currently, these diseases are quite difficult to treat; though some experimental drugs are available, there is no cure. Until very recently, many of these patients were often simply referred to psychiatrists. The plight of these individuals motivated Dr. Chaban to take up basic science questions related to these conditions.

Why look at the role of estrogen in pain? Dr. Chaban explains, “These diseases affect many more females than males. There is also a huge gender difference in how we perceive pain. Women even perceive pain differently during different phases of their cycle, and some drugs like morphine work very differently in females versus males. So obviously the effects of estrogen seem to be important.” To address this question, Dr. Chaban has focused on a specific part of the nervous system: primary sensory afferent neurons located in ganglia in the spinal cord. These neurons pick up sensory information from the body and make connections with other neurons in the ganglion before sending that sensory information to the brain.

Using a mouse model, Dr. Chaban and colleagues showed that estrogen had a profound effect on the expression of pain receptors on primary sensory afferent neurons. Though this effect had previously been demonstrated in the central nervous system, Dr. Chaban’s work provided the first example of estrogen’s modulation of visceral pain outside the spinal cord.

Dr. Chaban received his Ph.D in Physiology from Bogomoletz Institute, Kiev. He completed postdoctoral training in Neuroscience at UCLA and graduate training in Clinical Research at CDU. Dr. Chaban is currently an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at CDU, as well as an Associate Professor of Medicine at UCLA. He is also the Associate Program Director for the AXIS Clinical and Translational Research Center, as well as Co-Leader of the Educational Core of UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute. He serves as an Editor for International Journal of Research in Nursing, and as an Executive Editor of Journal of Autacoids.

Among his other accomplishments, Dr. Chaban received the Wood-Whellan Award from the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He has received fellowships and grants from the European Science Foundation and UNESCO and from NIH. He is also the recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Service to CDU and the Life Sciences Institute Emerging Scientist Award. This October he will serve as one of the renowned speakers for the 2nd International Conference on Endocrinology.

In the future, Dr. Chaban hopes to explore other basic neuroscience questions related to pain. “What I want to do next is look for the difference between fast pain (which is acute) and slow pain (which is chronic). I would love to go deeper and look at the problem of referred pain, or something that really intrigues me—phantom pain. I’d love to look at the differences between pain threshold that varies so greatly between people.”

Dr. Chaban speaks highly of the support from the community he has experienced at CDU. “At Drew, because it is a small school, you really feel like what you do is important.” He continues, “It is a kind of family, and this really drives me, this respect from the community. And the school’s mission to serve, it’s unbelievable.”