"Itch Receptors in the Airway"
Liang Han, Ph.D.
Department of Biological Sciences
We use a combination of molecular, cellular, immunohistochemical, electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to understand how the nervous system receive, transmit and interpret various stimuli to induce physiological and behavioral responses. We are particularly interested in the basic mechanisms underlying somatosensation, including pain, itch and mechanical sensations. Somatosensation is initiated by the activation of the primary sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia and trigeminal ganglia. We have discovered the molecular identity of itch-sensing neurons in the peripheral and provided novel insights into the mechanisms of itch sensation. We are currently investigating how chronic itch associated with cutaneous or systemic disorders is initiated and transmitted. We are also interested in the sensory innervation in the respiratory system. We have recently discovered that a subgroup of vagal sensory neurons expressing itch receptors mediate bronchoconstriction and airway hyperresponsiveness, both of which are hallmark features of asthma. We are investigating how the sensory innervation in the airway contributes to the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases.
Liang Han received a B.S. degree in Biological Sciences in 2001 and a M.S. degree in Developmental Biology in 2004 from Tsinghua University in China. She obtained her Ph.D. degree in Neuroscience in 2009 from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Following graduate school, she joined the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University as a postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Han joined the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Biological Sciences as an assistant professor in 2016. Her research interests focus on the mechanisms of somatosensation and the role of sensory neurons in the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases. She is the recipient of Albert Lehninger Young Investigator Award from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from NINDS in 2014.