We are interested in understanding the molecular bases of mechanotransduction, and the role of mechanosensory neurons in normal and pathological pain transmission. Mechanotransduction, the process through which cells convert a mechanical stimulus into an electrical signal, is of fundamental importance to physiological functions such as our senses of touch (including pain) and hearing, as well as our ability to regulate our hydromineral homeostasis (thirst), baroreflex function and myogenic tone (regulation of blood pressure). Mechanosensitive ion channels are membrane proteins responsible for most mechanotransduction processes, yet their molecular identity has not been fully resolved. Because these channels are involved in several pathologies of the nervous (chronic pain, deafness) and cardiovascular (hypertension) systems, the molecular identification of these channels, and understanding their activation properties may lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies in several clinical areas.

The projects in the lab focus on two areas of research:

1) Molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal mechanotransduction

We aim to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal mechanotransduction, the process by which the body converts a mechanical stimulus into an electrical signal. It relies on the function of mechanosensitive ion channels (MSCs), which have an important role in the development of mechanical hypersensitivity. 

Identification of the genes encoding MSCs, as well as a better understanding of their function, is essential for developing novel therapeutic approaches in the treatment of chronic pain.

From Sharif-Naeini R., Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015.

2) Central neuronal circuits engaged by mechanosensory afferents

We aim to identify neuronal circuits within the spinal cord that are engaged by mechanosensory afferents in normal and chronic pain conditions. 

More specifically, we look at populations of inhibitory interneurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and how these neurons regulate the touch and pain information that is transmitted to the brain for further processing.

From Petitjean H. et al., Cell Rep. 2015.


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