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Institute of Pharmacology

Current research

The somatosensory nervous system comprises several subpopulations fo functionally distinct sensory neurons, each of which is highly specialized to detect a specific submodality of touch and pain. While the functional and anatomical properties of these subpopulations are well described, still very little is known about the molecular determinants that specify their unique functional properties  and the physiological role of several of these sensory afferent subtypes is still enigmatic.

The Lechner lab utilizes optogenetics to selectively manipulate the activity of genetically defined sensory neuron subtypes both in vitro and in vivo and uses electrophysiological techniques (extracellular recordings from peripheral nerves, patch-clamp recordings from cultured DRG neurons and spinal cord slices) and behavioral assays to elucidate their physiological role in healthy animals as well as in chronic pain states.

A second focus of the lab is to understand how the function of sensory transduction ion channels is modulated during chronic pain states. To this end we utilize molecular biological techniques to generate ion channel mutants and use patch-clamp recordings to investigate the function properties of ion channel mutants.