The finding builds on previous research by Abboud, University of Iowa colleagues and other investigators -- thanks in part to attention paid years earlier to an organism that may seem to have little in common with humans -- a worm. Abboud said that previous studies done in the 1990s in the worm C. elegans showed that certain mechanosensors were needed for the worm to perceive touch. When a particular gene was absent, the worm lost the function of those mechanosensors.
"On a hunch, we wondered whether similar mechanosensors were still present in humans even after years of evolution," Abboud said. "So about 10 years ago, we looked at sensors in neck blood vessels of humans since we knew that external compression, such as what a wrestler might experience while wrestling, can be a problem.
"The blood vessel sensors in the neck keep blood pressure from getting too high or too low. Based on what we saw at that time, we studied rat models and found genes coding for sensors. With this current study, we were able to expand our investigation and identify the function of the protein channel expressed by the gene," he added.
In addition to contributions from Abboud's laboratory, the current study involved the laboratories of University of Iowa faculty members Christopher Benson, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine; Mark Chapleau, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine; and Michael Welsh, M.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of internal medicine and molecular physiology and biophysics who holds the Roy J. Carver Biomedical Chair in Internal Medicine.
|Contact: Becky Soglin|
University of Iowa