Lines of investigation

Sensory terminals of the skin and mucosae are subjected to a continuous bombardment of physical and chemical stimuli. These stimuli must be transformed into a code of electrical signals that is relayed to the central nervous system to evoke conscious sensations. Many details of this biological process, known as sensory transduction, are still elusive. This is specially true for stimuli that cause tissue injury and underlie the sensation of pain. Pain is a very frequent medical condition, with enormous costs and severe social impact in our communities.

Our research group is interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the transduction on low and high threshold mechanical, thermal (cold and warm) and chemical stimuli (both endogeneous and exogeneous mediators) by primary sensory neurons. We also seek to determine modulatory mechanisms in the responses and search for new potential therapeutic targets for the control of pain.

Current studies include the transcriptome profiling of subpopulations of primary sensory neurons in different models of chronic pain, structure and function of TRP and Piezo2 channels and the optogenetic interrogation of thermosensory and mechanosensory circuits. Additional efforts are devoted also to characterizing novel TRP channel modulators and their impact on different disease models.

In these studies, we use different techniques: molecular biology and genetic manipulation, RNASeq, pharmacology, immunocytochemistry, in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, piezoelectric activation of mechanosensitive channels, imaging techniques like intracellular calcium measurements and TIRF, FRET, FRAP and behavioural tests in rodents (nociception tests). Recent addition to our technical palette includes the selective expression of light-sensitive ion channels with sensory-specific Cre-driver lines (TRPM8, Advilin, Nav1.8, TRPA1, Piezo2, etc) to manipulate sensory activity in vivo and in vitro (optogenetics).

Representative Publications

Research groups of Unit

Cellular and Systems Neurobiology

Research groups of Scientific Program