Qin Liu, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Department of Anesthesiology, Department of Opthamology and Visual Sciences
Institution
Washington University
Address
4940 Parkview Place
CSRB 6652
City, State, Zip
St. Louis, MO 63110
Phone
(314) 747-5474
E-mail
liuqi[at]anest.wustl.edu
Website
http://csi.wustl.edu/faculty/liu_qin
Research Field
Molecular Biology
Award Year
2015

Research

My research probes the molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with ocular discomfort. Painful, itchy eyes can be a sign of something serious, such as allergies, infection, or abrasion. But the two sensations actually originate in different parts of the eye: Pain comes from the cornea, which covers the iris and pupil, while itchiness emanates from the conjunctiva, the membrane covering the white of the eye. I will dissect the mechanisms that underlie both processes. Early in my career, I discovered a receptor, present in the conjunctiva but not the cornea that is activated by itch-inducing chemicals. At the same time, I discovered a channel that renders the cornea exquisitely sensitive to pain. Now, I will continue to explore how itch receptors from the mouse and the human transmit their signals and how the channel found in the cornea translates even a gentle touch into extreme discomfort. This work will lead to more targeted and effective treatments for both of these forms of eye irritation and to a better understanding of other disorders that are plagued with intractable pain or itch.