Elena Gracheva received an M.S. in biochemistry from Moscow State University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she worked with Janet Richmond. She conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco, in the laboratory of David Julius. She joined the faculty of the Yale University School of Medicine in 2012. In addition to being a Rita Allen Foundation Scholar, Gracheva has received a Yale Scholar Award in Neuroscience, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation research fellowship and a Beckman Foundation Young Investigator award.
The main goal of Gracheva’s lab is to understand the molecular basis of temperature sensitivity under normal, adaptive and pathological conditions. Her early work concerned acute temperature perception in infrared-sensing animals. She and her colleagues discovered two receptors that are responsible for this function, as well as structural elements within ion channels that dictate activation by temperature and chemicals. Her research group is using non-standard animal models—hibernating thirteen-lined ground squirrels and Syrian hamsters—to delineate molecular and cellular aspects of somatosensitivity, with a focus on temperature tolerance. They are investigating the contribution of different ion channels to cold tolerance of mammalian hibernators using a multidisciplinary approach, which includes electrophysiology, molecular biology, imaging, behavioral paradigms, genomics, transcriptomics and bioinformatics. Recently, Gracheva’s group discovered a molecular mechanism that supports nerve tissue function during hibernation.