Press Esc to close
Wednesday 26 November 2014
News updated at 3:42 AM IST
Weather
Max: 29.1°C
Min : 17°C
In Bengaluru
Sunny day

Scientists decode the mystery of 'gentle touch'

Washington, Dec 10, 2012 (PTI):

Scientists have uncovered the molecular basis of gentle touch and in studies with fruit flies found that without a key protein many organisms may be insensitive to stroking.

Our ability to sense gentle touch is known to develop early and to remain ever-present in our lives but it is the least understood of the senses scientifically, because, unlike with vision or taste, scientists have not known the identity of the molecules that mediate it.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) identified the exact subset of nerve cells responsible for communicating gentle touch to the brains of Drosophila larvae - called class III neurons.

Scientists stroked the soft body of a newborn fruit fly larva ever-so-gently with a freshly plucked eyelash, and it responded to the tickle by altering its movement.


The researchers also uncovered a particular protein called NOMPC, which is found abundantly at the spiky ends of the nerves and appears to be critical for sensing gentle touch in flies.

Without this key molecule, the team discovered, flies are insensitive to any amount of eyelash stroking, and if NOMPC is inserted into neurons that cannot sense gentle touch, those neurons gain the ability to do so.

"NOMPC is sufficient to confer sensitivity to gentle touch," said Yuh Nung Jan, a professor of physiology, biochemistry and biophysics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UCSF.

Jan added that while the new work reveals much, many unanswered questions remain, including the exact mechanism through which NOMPC detects mechanical force and the identity of the analogous human molecules that confer gentle touch sensitivity in people.

Scientists generally feel that, like those other senses, the sense of touch is governed by peripheral nerve fibres stretching from the spine to nerve endings all over the body.
Special molecules in these nerve endings detect the mechanical movement of the skin surrounding them when it is touched, and they respond by opening and allowing ions to rush in.

The nerve cell registers this response, and if the signal is strong enough, it will fire, signalling the gentle touch to the brain.

The new finding is a milestone in that it defines the exact nerves and uncovers the identity of the NOMPC channel, one of the major molecular players involved - at least in flies, researchers said in a statement.

Go to Top

Photo Gallery
It is business as usual in Leopold Cafe on the eve of the anniversary ...

It is business as usual in Leopold Cafe on the eve of the anniversary ...

England's captain Alastair Cook (R) talks with his teammate Ravi Bopara...

England's captain Alastair Cook (R) talks with his teammate Ravi Bopara...

Models pose with a car during the inauguration of the Lamborghini showroom...

Models pose with a car during the inauguration of the Lamborghini showroom...

Women from the Delhi police force, undergo martial arts training...

Women from the Delhi police force, undergo martial arts training...

Indian tennis player Sania Mirza blows whistle to joins campaign...

Indian tennis player Sania Mirza blows whistle to joins campaign...

Children rights activist Baburaj, Good Sheperd High School headmistress ...

Children rights activist Baburaj, Good Sheperd High School headmistress ...

A Sun Bird sits on a branch of Jacaranda flower tree...

A Sun Bird sits on a branch of Jacaranda flower tree...

BJP MP'S meeting in Parliament house...

BJP MP'S meeting in Parliament house...

Bipasha Basu and Milind Soman at Pinkathon announcement

Bipasha Basu and Milind Soman at Pinkathon announcement

Modi with BJP leaders at an election rally in Jharkhand

Modi with BJP leaders at an election rally in Jharkhand

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523