Qin Liu, PhD selected as Pew Scholar

Jul 16, 2015

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Liu, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, is one of twenty-two promising early-career researchers named to the 2015 class of Pew scholars in the biomedical sciences. She joins the ranks of more than 600 outstanding scientists who have been selected as Pew scholars in the 30 years since the program’s inception and whose careers have been dedicated to bold scientific discoveries.

The program provides four years of flexible funding to scholars at the assistant professor level. Scientists are nominated for their dedication to pursing the high-risk, high-reward research that can lead to extraordinary findings in bioscience. Specifically, Liu’s research probes the molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with ocular discomfort.

According to Liu, “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.”

Liu has already discovered both a receptor, present in the conjunctiva but not the cornea, that is activated by itch-inducing chemicals and a channel that renders the cornea exquisitely sensitive to pain. She will continue to explore how itch receptors from both mice and humans 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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Tags: ResearchCenter for the Study of Itch