Identifying novel sensory molecules and mechanisms in nematodes and mammals


  • Dr William Schafer

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

Our senses of taste, touch and hearing depend on ion channels embedded in sensory receptors. External sensory stimuli trigger these channels, causing their associated sensory receptors to fire. The molecular mechanisms that govern these types of sensory receptors and their ion channels are still poorly understood. Dr Schafer plans to examine a family of genes – the transmembrane channel-like (TMC) family – that may encode channels important for our senses of hearing, taste and touch. To do this, he will study the properties, functions and genetics of TMC proteins in mammalian cells and genetically modified Caenorhabditis elegans, or roundworms. The work will increase our understanding of how the nervous system transforms sensory stimuli into neural signals. It could also provide new insight into the nature and treatment of sensory disorders, such as deafness and chronic pain.