Rell Parker, DVM, PhD
Assistant Professor
Neurology and Neurosurgery
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences


About Rell Parker's research

The Parker Lab is a translational research lab, investigating neurologic disorders of people and animals. We are located at the VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg campus. Our research is focused on the functional changes that occur in the nervous system in response to chronic pain. We use animal models to investigate the pathophysiology of pain, from the molecular to behavioral level.

We are particularly interested in studying the changes that occur in nicotinic acetylcholine receptors during pathological processes, and the role of various nicotinic receptor subunits in pathologic states. Our methods of investigation include animal behavior, imaging, and electrophysiology. Nicotinic receptors are potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of chronic pain in animals and people. The role of specific nicotinic receptor subunits in the development of chronic pain is poorly understood, but is essential for drug development. Currently we are using mouse models, due to the availability of mice encoding fluorescently tagged nicotinic receptor subunits. However, future studies will plan to investigate chronic pain in companion animal models.

Rell Parker has been named as a 2022-2024 iTHRIV Scholar. 

The integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia, or iTHRIV, is a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Program Hub. In practice, iTHRIV is a cross-Commonwealth collaboration between University of Virginia , Virginia Tech, Carilion Clinic, and the Inova Health System. iTHRIV unites the research infrastructure of these flagship institutions with the latest advances in data science to accelerate innovation in health-related research and foster the next generation of collaborative health research professionals. 

The iTHRIV Scholars Program is supported in part by the National Center for Advancing Translational Science of the National Institutes of Health Award KL2TR003016.

Dr. Parker describes her iTHRIV research project below:

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Our lab is interested in canine models of brain tumors, particularly new treatments for brain tumors. Clinical research projects on canine brain tumors are performed in collaboration with Dr. John H Rossmeisl and the Veterinary and Comparative Neuro-oncology Laboratory (VCNOL). Our main interests include:

  • Canine spontaneous brain tumor translational disease model
  • Precision medicine for brain tumors: Molecularly targeted therapeutics (MTT)
  • Minimally invasive cellular ablative techniques
  • Novel systems for drug delivery to the brain

More details about our brain tumor research program can be found on Dr. Rossmeisl's website.


Lab members

  • Derek Wei, lab technician
  • Courtney Snead, research coordinator

Inquiries regarding open positions may be directed to Dr. Parker.

  • Nicolette Smith, DVM Candidate, Summer Veterinary Student Research Program, 2022