Dr. Caterina’s laboratory studies the mechanisms for detecting, transmitting and perceiving thermal sensations and pain. Using molecular genetic and behavioral approaches, his group has established the role of mammalian Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) family of channels in thermosensation.
A main goal of Dr. Doetzlhofer’s laboratory is to identify and characterize the molecular mechanisms of hair cell development in the mammalian auditory system. She would also like to identify the molecular roadblocks preventing mammalian hair cell regeneration. In mammals, hair cell generation is limited to embryonic development. Lost hair cells are not replaced leading to deafness and balance disorders.
Dr. Dong, trained in molecular neuroscience, has identified many genes specifically expressed in primary sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia (DRG). He is interested in studying the function of these genes in pain and itch sensation by multiple approaches including molecular biology, mouse genetics, mouse behavior, and electrophysiology.
The Fuchs laboratory uses cellular electrophysiology, immunolabeling and electron microscopy to study synaptic connections between sensory hair cells and neurons in the cochlea. One effort focuses on an unusual cholinergic receptor that mediates efferent inhibition of hair cells, driving discovery of the molecular mechanisms, and offering a target for protection against acoustic trauma.
Dr. Glowatzki received her doctoral degree from the University of Kaiserslautern for her work on the biophysics of ligand-gated ion channels. After postdoctoral training in Germany and England, she moved to Johns Hopkins where she began her studies of synaptic signaling by mechanosensory hair cells of the mammalian cochlea.
Dr. Potter and his lab are interested in understanding how the sense of smell is received, interpreted and encoded by neurons in the brain. The lab develops sophisticated genetic techniques in Drosophila to alter the activity of defined neuronal subsets, and then monitors how those alterations affect olfactory behaviors.
Dr. Reed and his colleagues are identifying the pathways responsible for converting smells into signals perceived by the brain and the role of these genes in wiring this extraordinary sensory system. The laboratory also studies the remarkable ability of the nerve cells in the nose to be continually replaced throughout adult life and respond to environmental or traumatic injury by complete neuronal regeneration from identified stem cells.
The Undem laboratory investigates how visceral tissues communicate with the central nervous system via the sensory nervous system, and how this process becomes corrupted in inflammatory visceral diseases (focusing mainly on asthma, chronic cough, COPD, and esophagitis). Using electrophysiological and genetic approaches we are investigating the mechanisms by which the activity and phenotype of sensory nerves are modulated in the face of inflammation. One present topic is involves the question of how respiratory virus infection and allergic inflammation alters the nervous system in a manner that leads to coughing and exacerbation of asthma. Another more basic area of interest is in the unraveling of how sensory stimuli (mechanical, inflammatory mediators) lead to membrane depolarization in vagal sensory pain type nerve terminals and the nature of the voltage gated sodium channels that support action potential initiation and conduction in these nerves.
Dr. Yau and his laboratory study visual and olfactory sensory transduction, which have interesting similarities but also striking differences. Visual transduction in retinal photoreceptors (the rods and cones) is known to involve a cGMP signaling pathway. Recording from single, dissociated photoreceptors isolated from genetically modified mice and frogs is one assay they use to address specific questions about the details of phototransduction. Unlike vision, which involves only a few visual pigments in rods and cones, olfaction apparently involves of the order of a thousand distinct odorant receptor proteins. A key, still largely unknown question about olfactory transduction is how a given odorant receptor protein recognizes a specific set of chemicals (odorants). They are addressing this question by stimulating cloned odorant receptor proteins various odorants, using calcium imaging as an assay.
The Zhao laboratory is interested in the first step of olfaction—olfactory signal transduction, the process by which olfactory sensory neurons transform information of odorous chemicals into membrane potential changes.In vertebrates, olfactory signal transduction takes place in olfactory cilia, which extend from the tip of the olfactory sensory neuron dendrite into the mucus that covers the nasal epithelium.