Malin Lagerström – Sensory circuits
Incoming sensory information from our body, for instance the sensation of pain and itch, is regulated in the spinal cord. This type of information is essential for our survival but if it becomes persistent, our quality of life is radically reduced. We are studying the neuronal networks that transmit and regulate sensory information. How are the circuits organised, which neurons participate, what are their characteristics and how can they be controlled?
Primary afferent neurons are the first to register changes in our environment. Different sensory impressions are transmitted using specific receptors. For instance, burning and icing pain are detected by ion channels called TrpV1 and TrpA1 respectively while mechanical pressure is detected by Piezo channels. Different types of itch are transmitted by specific receptors depending on the type of itch.
Neuronal regulation of itch
In the spinal cord, the primary afferent neurons contact interneurons that are stimulated or inhibited, which leads to regulation and further adjustment of the incoming signal. While large efforts have been made to identify the origin of pain and itch, we still know little about how the spinal interneurons are controlled.
We are now focusing on identifying how different signal substances control the interneurons that mediate itch or pain. We are using method development, electrophysiology, pharmacology and advanced transgenic techniques. Our goal is to further understand how sensory networks are regulated in health and disease and to develop novel treatment towards persistent sensory conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.