Itch Receptors in the Airway
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We use a combination of molecular, cellular, immunohistochemical, electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to understand how the nervous system receive, transmit and interpret various stimuli to induce physiological and behavioral responses. We are particularly interested in the basic mechanisms underlying somatosensation, including pain, itch and mechanical sensations. Somatosensation is initiated by the activation of the primary sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia and trigeminal ganglia. We have discovered the molecular identity of itch-sensing neurons in the peripheral and provided novel insights into the mechanisms of itch sensation. We are currently investigating how chronic itch associated with cutaneous or systemic disorders is initiated and transmitted. We are also interested in the sensory innervation in the respiratory system. We have recently discovered that a subgroup of vagal sensory neurons expressing itch receptors mediate bronchoconstriction and airway hyperresponsiveness, both of which are hallmark features of asthma. We are investigating how the sensory innervation in the airway contributes to the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases.