Valeria Vásquez, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Physiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), wrote a paper that has been published in Nature Communications about the lipid components that modulate mechanosensation. Her paper is titled, “Dietary Fatty Acids Fine-Tune Piezo1 Mechanical Response.”
Blood pressure, red blood cell volume, and touch sensation rely on mechanosensitive proteins to communicate and translate mechanical stimuli into physiological signals. The protein, Piezo1, is an ion channel embedded into human tissues that transduces physical stimuli into cell function. If the Piezo1 channel malfunctions, it can cause many hereditary human diseases, including hemolytic anemia (abnormal breakdown of red blood cells) and lymphatic dysplasia (underdevelopment of the lymphatic system).
“We study how the protein Piezo1 is controlled by dietary fatty acids and found that saturated, omega-3, and omega-6, fatty acids modulate Piezo1 function,” Dr. Vásquez said.
Dr. Vásquez has led her team at UTHSC since 2016. Her research focuses on understanding how mechanosensitive ion channels function is controlled by bioactive lipids. Her lab is particularly interested on identifying membrane lipids that regulate channel function in vivo and the mechanism by which they interact to increase mechano-dependent function.