Lunch @UCBerkeley with Diana Bautista – When itch becomes a pain

Lunch @UCBerkeley with Diana Bautista – When itch becomes a pain

29 October 2017
12:15 pm – 1:30 pm

Lunch @UCBerkeley with Diana Bautista – When itch becomes a pain


Just reading about itching makes some of us scratch. To Diana Bautista, that’s part of its mystery and allure. A reflex probably meant to protect us from disease-carrying insects, itch can get out of hand in chronic diseases like eczema. In her lab at UC Berkeley, she teases out the itch and pain receptors in the skin in hopes of understanding the relationship between pain and itch, and possibly find therapies that lessen the urge to scratch without affecting our ability to detect pain. What she finds could have implications for cancer patients, who sometimes develop extreme sensitivity to touch, and diabetes patients, who often develop a neuropathy that eliminates their sensitivity to light touch.

One of her lab subjects is a unique creature called the star-nosed mole, which she uses to search for the genes that enable receptors in the skin to detect touch and pain sensations. The mole’s snout is ringed by extremely sensitive, fleshy appendages which appear to have no pain receptors, allowing her to isolate the effect of touch receptors from pain receptors. This research has turned up dozens of new pain and touch receptors, many of them found also in humans. She hopes the work will lead to pain relievers that target pain at its source – the skin – rather than systemically.

In her talk, Bautista will summarize what is known about the biology of itch, touch and pain, share videos of her work with the star-nosed mole, and then focus on her latest research about itch.


Registration is required.