PiN Faculty Member - Isaac Chiu, PhD

Isaac Chiu, PhD

Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunobiology

Harvard Medical School
Dept. of Microbiology and Immunobiology
NRB, Room 830
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-780-9306
Visit my lab page here.

The goal of our laboratory is to understand the role of the peripheral nervous system in host defense and inflammation. Nociceptor somatosensory neurons protect the organism from danger by detecting potentially harmful/noxious stimuli and eliciting the sensation of pain. Celsus originally defined pain as one of the cardinal signs of inflammation; however, the molecular mechanisms of pain during inflammation and infection are not well understood. We found that nociceptors express specific receptors for pathogen and immune-derived factors. We aim to define the role of nociceptors in mediating host defense and modulating immune cell function.

Pathogenic mechanisms of pain
Pain is a component of many infectious diseases, including bacterial and viral infection. We have found that Staphylococcus aureus produces pain by directly activating neurons through N-formylated peptides and the pore-forming toxin alpha-hemolysin. Identifying how pathogens induce nociceptor activation and targeting these mechanisms could be important in the treatment of pain and infectious diseases. We will also investigate molecular cross-talk between the nervous system and immune system during infection and tissue inflammation.

Somatosensory neuron subsets in inflammation
Nociceptors encode the detection of different sensory modalities including heat and mechanical sensitivity at the molecular level. Similar specification may also mediate different inflammatory conditions. For example, bacterial infection often causes pain, whereas allergic inflammation induces itch. We will use animal models, electrophysiology, molecular biology, and behavioral analysis to investigate neuronal subsets involved in detection of distinct pathogenic and inflammatory stimuli.

Last Update: 2/5/2015


For a complete listing of publications click here.



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