Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Merkel cells revealed as secret behind sensation of light touch

Date:
December 12, 2009
Source:
American Society for Cell Biology
Summary:
Scientists have proved experimentally what has been suspected since the discovery of Merkel cells in the skin over a century ago: the sense of light touch that is critical for hand dexterity would not be possible without these cells.

Scientists have proved experimentally what has been suspected since the discovery of Merkel cells in the skin over a century ago: the sense of light touch that is critical for hand dexterity would not be possible without these cells.

In a presentation at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) 49th Annual Meeting, Dec. 5-9, 2009 in San Diego, Ellen Lumpkin, Ph.D., of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston will report how a new knockout mouse lacking Merkel cells enabled her research lab to demonstrate that these cells are required for the appropriate sensory coding of the light touch needed to distinguish shapes and textures.

In the knockout mouse, the researchers measured the responses of all classes of touch receptors innervating the animal's skin. "Although we saw no changes in touch receptors that respond to noxious touch, we observed a complete loss of a particular type of light-touch receptor," said Lumpkin, whose research team included scientists at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, as well as Baylor.

"The sense of touch provides a constant stream information to our brains about the objects that surround us," said Lumpkin. "For example, touch receptors in our hands allow us to recognize shapes, feel textures and grasp objects with high fidelity. Thus, touch is critical for our hand dexterity. It enables countess daily tasks ranging from the mundane, such as typing an email, to the essential, such as drinking a glass of water."

Prior to the knockout mouse model, scientists failed to show experimentally that Merkel cells were anything more than associated with light touch.

As part of the study, the Lumpkin lab first isolated Merkel cells in normal animals and recorded neural impulses from touch receptors in their skin. By applying force to isolated Merkel cells, the researchers showed that these cells were inherently touch-sensitive.

They also identified genes that allowed Merkel cells to convey neural signals to sensory neurons.

This evidence suggested, but did not prove, that Merkel cells were capable of serving as touch receptor cells. The newly identified genes, though, hinted at the basis of light touch. The identification of the genes also allowed the scientists to produce the knockout mouse lacking Merkel cells and subsequently to prove that these cells are responsible for the sense of light touch.

Merkel cells, which can turn malignant and form the skin tumor known as Merkel cell carcinoma, were discovered in 1875 by the German anatomist Friedrich Merkel.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Cell Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Society for Cell Biology. "Merkel cells revealed as secret behind sensation of light touch." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132231.htm>.
American Society for Cell Biology. (2009, December 12). Merkel cells revealed as secret behind sensation of light touch. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132231.htm
American Society for Cell Biology. "Merkel cells revealed as secret behind sensation of light touch." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132231.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) A study suggest antidepressants can kick in much sooner than previously thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins