says senior author Sreekanth Chalasani, an associate professor in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory.
The team proved the idea in a roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, where a protein called TRP-4 makes cells sensitive to low-frequency ultrasound. This further allowed the team to explore a similar variant protein in mammalian cells.
It was found that TRPA1 a channel protein was known to let cells respond to the presence of noxious compounds and to activate a range of cells in the human body, including brain and heart cells. The channel also opened in response to ultrasound in HEK cells (specific immortalized cell line).
The team further sets to explore how TRPA1 senses ultrasound for contributing towards more future research and clinical applications.
“Our approach was different than previous screens because we set out to look for ultrasound-sensitive channels in a comprehensive way,” says Yusuf Tufail, a former project scientist at Salk and a co-first author of the new paper.