Qin Liu, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Department of Anesthesiology, Department of Opthamology and Visual Sciences
Washington University
4940 Parkview Place
CSRB 6652
City, State, ZIP
St. Louis, MO 63110
(314) 747-5474
[email protected]
Research field
Molecular Biology
Award year


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.

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