RELATED STORY: Diana Bautista: An Itch for Knowledge
Diana Bautista (Award in Pain Recipient) earned her B.S. in biology from the University of Oregon and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University, where she worked in the laboratory of Richard Lewis. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, collaborating with David Julius. She joined the Berkeley faculty in 2008. In addition to a Rita Allen Foundation Scholar award, she has received the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award.
Bautista’s lab aims to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the sensations of itch, touch and pain. Humans rely on these senses for a broad range of essential behaviors. For example, acute pain acts as a warning signal that alerts us to noxious mechanical, chemical and thermal stimuli, which are potentially tissue damaging. Likewise, itch sensations trigger reflexes that may protect us from disease-carrying insects. Despite these essential protective functions, itch and pain can outlast their usefulness and become chronic. Bautista’s lab uses cellular physiology, molecular biology, molecular genetics and behavioral studies to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying itch and pain transduction under normal and pathophysiological conditions.