MCW research team author paper in Nature on touch perception

May 06, 2014 College News - Cheryl Stucky, PhD, Professor of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, and Andy Weyer, Research Assistant in Dr. Stucky’s lab, have published a paper in Nature on touch perception. The article appeared in the April 6 online version.

The perception of gentle touch, such as a light stroke of a finger or the fine texture of objects we grasp, is conveyed by nerve cells that connect to special cells in skin called Merkel cells. The role of these Merkel cells in touch sensation has been debated since their discovery in the late 1800s. Dr. Stucky’s paper, which was written in collaboration with Ardem Patapoutian and colleagues at the Scripps Research Institute, demonstrates that Merkel cells can directly respond to touch, along with the nerve cells that connect to them.

Further, the team showed that a protein ion channel called Piezo2 (piezo means “to press” in Greek) is the mechanism by which Merkel cells respond to light touch and convey their signal to sensory neurons, which then relay the signal to the spinal cord and brain where touch is perceived.

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