Liu Lab

The research of my lab focuses on the peripheral neural mechanims of somatosensations, including itch, pain and mechanosensation. Using mouse genetic models and a combination of molecular, cellular, and behavioral techniques, we have identified several novel itch receptors that enables primary sensory neurons to detect distinct pruritogens and generate histamine-independent itch. In addition, using a novel, genetic axon-tracing technique, we discovered a rare population of DRG neurons with notable similarity to C-fiber tactile afferent neurons that sense pleasant touch. Finally, in collaboration with Dr. Yun Guan at Hopkins, we found that certain sensory-neuron-specific receptors function as endogenous inhibitors of chronic pain. These findings open new, exciting possibilities for our research: how are different modalities of sensory stimuli perceived and discriminated? How is the encoded sensory information transmitted to the brain? Are there dedicated brain regions to process distinct sensory information? We hope that these investigations will bring conceptual innovation to sensory fields and advance the frontier study of somatosensation.

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