Quest to understand sense of touch could lead to new treatments for chronic pain

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
portfolio item
Image: Neil Patel

If she wasn’t looking at her limbs, the girl didn’t seem to have any clue where they were. She lacked the sense of her body’s position in space, a crucial ability known as proprioception. “This is something that just doesn’t occur,” says [pediatric neurologist Carsten] Bönnemann.

His team sequenced the girl’s genes, and those of another girl with similar symptoms, and found mutations in a gene called PIEZO2. Their timing was fortunate: just a few years earlier, researchers looking for the mechanisms that cells use to sense touch had found that the gene encoded a pressure-sensitive protein.

The discovery of Piezo2 and a related protein, Piezo1, was a high point in a decades-long search for the mechanisms that control the sense of touch. The Piezos are ion channels — gates in the cell membrane that allow ions to pass through — that are sensitive to tension.

Related article:  When it comes to food, pesticides and drugs, does 'natural' mean safer or healthier?

Touch underlies the functioning of almost every tissue and cell type, says [molecular neurobiologist Ardem] Patapoutian. Organisms interpret forces to understand their world, to enjoy a caress and to avoid painful stimuli.

Already, researchers are beginning to think about targeting force-sensing proteins with medicines to treat, for example, chronic pain.

Read full, original post: The quest to decipher how the body’s cells sense touch

Outbreak Featured
Infographic: Gene transfer mystery — How 'antifreeze' genes jumped from one species to another without sex

Infographic: Gene transfer mystery — How ‘antifreeze’ genes jumped from one species to another without sex

It isn’t surprising... that herrings and smelts, two groups of fish that commonly roam the northernmost reaches of the Atlantic ...
a bee covered in pollen x

Are GMOs and pesticides threatening bees?

First introduced in 1995, neonicotinoids ...
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

* indicates required
Email Lists
glp menu logo outlined

Get news on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.