Molecular neurogenetics gets the nod from the Nobel committee

The Nobel in medicine this year goes to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their work in identifying the receptors that transduce heat and touch into signals in the nervous system.

So now you know the proximal sensors that are activated when you hug someone, or when you nibble on some ghost pepper. It’s TRPV and PIEZO channels!

Now they just have to figure out what’s going on in the central nervous system when those channels are triggered.


  1. imback says

    @robro, never mind vaccines, it looks from the diagram the receptors come right out of one’s latte.

  2. PaulBC says

    They look like vacuum cleaner attachments to me (I’m sure PZ is thrilled with the quality of this discussion).

  3. birgerjohansson says

    Does leprosy affect those receptors directly, or do the pathogens destroy nerves “downstream” ?

  4. Gordon Davisson says

    Waitaminute, “Skeletal remodeling” is listed under what PIEZO2 does. What does a nerve receptor have to do with that? I can’t even…

    [Insert stock footage of a web search here.], “Piezo2 expressed in proprioceptive neurons is essential for skeletal integrity”:

    In humans, mutations in the PIEZO2 gene, which encodes for a mechanosensitive ion channel, were found to result in skeletal abnormalities including scoliosis and hip dysplasia. Here, we show in mice that loss of Piezo2 expression in the proprioceptive system recapitulates several human skeletal abnormalities. While loss of Piezo2 in chondrogenic or osteogenic lineages does not lead to human-like skeletal abnormalities, its loss in proprioceptive neurons leads to spine malalignment and hip dysplasia. To validate the non-autonomous role of proprioception in hip joint morphogenesis, we studied this process in mice mutant for proprioceptive system regulators Runx3 or Egr3. Loss of Runx3 in the peripheral nervous system, but not in skeletal lineages, leads to similar joint abnormalities, as does Egr3 loss of function. These findings expand the range of known regulatory roles of the proprioception system on the skeleton and provide a central component of the underlying molecular mechanism, namely Piezo2.

    Good grief. I guess I’ll file this under “everything is connected to everything else”.

  5. John Morales says

    Not quite on topic, but this story is interesting, and it’s sorta neuroscience:
    Woman successfully treated for depression with electrical brain implant

    A woman with severe depression has been successfully treated with an experimental brain implant in a “stunning” advance that offers hope to those with intractable mental illness.

    The device works by detecting patterns of brain activity linked to depression and automatically interrupting them using tiny pulses of electrical stimulation delivered deep inside the brain.

    The 36-year-old patient, Sarah, said the therapy had returned her to “a life worth living”, allowing her to laugh spontaneously for the first time in five years.

    When will we be able to see an actual droud? Baby steps, but getting there.


  6. Jazzlet says

    @ John Morales
    That is fascinating. I’d seen that ECT (electro convulsive therapy) has been used to treat refractory depression, apparently with great success, I have a friend who says it was life changing, but I’m not sure whether the effect is long term. Although that friend is still fine after, I think, almost four years, despite having spent COVID-19 shut downs alone apart from her work, which is helping other people with their mental health ie pretty much guaranteed to bring you right down.