Dr. Zhou-Feng Chen received his B.S. degree in virology from Wuhan University in 1983 and his Ph.D. Degree in mouse genetics from University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in 1994, under the supervision of Prof. Richard Behringer. After completing a postdoctoral training in Prof. David Anderson’s lab at Caltech, he joined the department of Anesthesiology as an assistant professor at Washington University School of Medicine in 2000 and became a full professor in 2009. His research focuses on understanding of neural circuits of itch and pain with a wide range of interests including neuronal GPCR signaling in itch, descending and modulation and coding logics of itch and pain. His team identified the first itch-specific receptor Gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR) and neural circuits in the spinal cord. These seminal discoveries have opened up an exciting new frontier for deciphering itch circuits and function. Ongoing research program is centered on signaling and synaptic mechanisms of itch transmission from the skin to the brain and crosstalk between itch and pain. Genetic and molecular tools are being developed to mark and isolate itch neurons for molecular, electrophysiological, cellular and circuit analysis. Detailed elucidation of how GRPR and/or GRPR neurons receive, process and relay itch information may shed insights onto potential therapies for chronic itch.
In a new study, Chen’s lab has identified NMBR as a novel itch receptor for mediating histaminergic itch in the spinal cord. Using a combination of pharmacological, behavioral and genetic approaches, the study delineates the respective roles for GRPR and NMBR in itch transmission. The study reveals that NMB, an endogenous ligand for NMBR, exclusively activates NMBR, and additionally acts as a functional antagonist for GRPR. In contrast, GRP, a cognate ligand for GRPR, activates both GRPR and NMBR in…
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Drs. Zhou-Feng Chen and Lynn Cornelius, talk about chronic itch as an unmet need and the clinical implication of the discovery of an itch-specific receptor called GRPR.
Read The New York Time article "Itching: more than deep-skin".
A new study from Dr. Zhou-Feng Chen's laboratory shows that the BNP-NPRA signaling does not function upstream of the GRP-GRPR pathway. A NIH team recently proposed that B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) but not GRP functions in pruriceptors, and BNP-NPRA acts upstream of the GRP-GRPR signaling pathway dedicated to itch (Reports, Science, May 24, 2013). Chen's team provides comprehensive evidence supporting the notion that GRP is indeed an itch-specific peptide in pruriceptors. By contrast, BNP protein appears to be expressed in…
Anyone who has suffered through sleepless nights due to uncontrollable itching knows that not all itching is the same. New research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis explains why.
Working in mice, the scientists have shown that chronic itching, which can occur in many medical conditions, from eczema and psoriasis to kidney failure and liver disease, is different from the fleeting urge to scratch a mosquito bite.
(Watch Youtube Video for this news)
That’s because chronic…
NAME: Zhou-Feng Chen
TITLE: Director, Center for the Study of Itch at the Washington University School of Medicine
LOCATION: St. Louis, Mo.
Why do we need a research center dedicated to itch?
First, chronic itch is a major underreported disease. Many patients—as many as 17 percent of adults, according to one study—suffer from it, and many of them never seek medical help. They think they can scratch it away. Because it’s not cancer, you don’t…