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Dr. Caterina conducted his graduate research on mechanisms underlying G protein coupled chemoattractant receptor signaling. As a postdoctoral fellow, he cloned Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) an ion channel and “molecular thermometer” that can be gated either by capsaicin (the main pungent ingredient in spicy peppers) or by painful heat (>42°C).
Current topics of interest in his lab at Johns Hopkins include: the respective contributions of different TRP channels to pain sensation, thermosensation, and thermoregulation; the roles of temperature-gated TRP channels in nonneuronal cells such as skin keratinocytes; and a novel form of activity-dependent plasticity in TRP channel signaling.
Dr. Deans is a developmental neurobiologist who focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal polarization and morphogenesis. His current research is focused on developmental mechanisms that may be shared by the retina and inner ear. Congenital syndromes such as Usher’s Syndrome, in which affected individuals are both blind and deaf, demonstrate the commonality between these systems and the logic behind this approach. As part of this work, he has studied the function of the planar cell polarity proteins VanGogh-like2 and Prickle2 during development of the inner ear mechanosensory hair cells. In addition, his laboratory uses these two sensory systems to study the function of a large atypical cadherin called Fat3 and its role in dendrite formation.
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. However, in non-mammalian vertebrates, supporting cells undergo a process of de-differentiation after hair cell loss, and are able to replace lost hair cells by either cell division or direct trans-differentiation. Her experiments suggest that the lack of mammalian hair cell regeneration is likely due to an absence or blockage of regenerative signals.
Dr. Dong, trained in molecular neuroscience, has identified many genes specifically expressed in pain-sensing neurons in dorsal root ganglia. He is interested in studying the function of these genes in pain sensation by multiple approaches including molecular biology, mouse genetics, mouse behavior, and electrophysiology.
The laboratory will use these genes as molecular tools to understand the cellular properties of different subtypes of pain-sensing neurons with respect to neuronal circuitry in central projection and pain modalities. The laboratory also is investigating the molecular mechanism of how skin mast cells sensitize sensory nerves under inflammatory states.
Dr. Fuchs trained in synaptic physiology and studies both afferent and efferent connections of cochlear hair cells. This work has helped identify and characterize ion channels that underlie signaling, as well as transmembrane and intracellular calcium flux in hair cells. Aberrant calcium signaling can be pathogenic, and could contribute to hair cell damage and loss in later life (presbycusis).
In addition, synaptic interactions at the onset of hearing play critical, but as yet undefined, roles in the ultimate functional maturation of cochlear hair cells. Knowledge gained from these studies will inform novel pharmacotherapeutic strategies to prevent or treat hearing loss. Fuchs is a co-director of the Center for Sensory Biology.
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.This work is aimed at understanding fundamental details of synaptic function in hair cells. It is providing essential insights into how neurotransmitters are released and act at this first stage in the transmission of sound to the brain.
Dr. Nathans began working on human vision during his graduate studies. After postdoctoral training at Genentech, Dr. Nathans joined the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He holds appointments in the Departments of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Neuroscience, and Ophthalmology. The principal research interests of the Nathans lab center on two areas: the structure and function of the vertebrate visual system; and the origins of pattern formation in development.
Jeremy Nathans shares the 2008 Champalimaude Vision Award with King-Wai Yau:
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. Integrating genetics, physiology, biochemistry, and imaging in the Reed laboratory provides the framework for understanding how sensory systems achieve their incredible sensitivity and specificity in normal individuals and how diseases, aging and environmental assault interfere with these processes. Reed is a co-director of the Center for Sensory Biology.
Dr. Potter and his lab are interested in understanding how the sense of smell is received, interpreted and encoded by the neurons in the brain. The lab uses sophisticated genetic techniques in Drosophila to alter the activity of defined neuronal subsets, and then monitors how those alterations affect olfactory behaviors. From such experiments, they aim to understand how different neural circuits give rise to discrete olfactory perceptions. The lab is particularly interested in understanding systems of olfactory communication, whereby animals use odorants (e.g. pheromones) to relay information about changing conditions in the external environment. They are also interested in determining how such olfactory information is further processed by central brain neurons.
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.
Yau shares the 2008 Champalimaude Vision Award with Jeremy Nathans: