Sensory Neurons Co-opt Classical Immune Signaling Pathways to Mediate Chronic Itch

There are many things to like about this paper, but I want to highlight some methodological features that I think we should use more:

  1. Use of human tissue in parallel to mouse: In this paper, they used human DRG from the outset to ensure that the phenomena under study were present in human and not just mouse. If a study can begin in this way, it increases the probability of translation. What’s also nice is that they didn’t just use human tissue for biochemical assays, but also for functional ones (calcium imaging).
  2. Strong use of clinical insight to drive questions: This is a patently disease-focused paper, so it’s not surprising that clinical observation would drive the science. But it’s clear that at every step, they tried to take clinical insight to motivate the experiments.
  3. Use of published single-cell transcriptomic resources to support and drive the work: The seminal work from Usoskin et al, wherein the first DRG single cell census was published, was used in this current paper in several places. This is the beauty of producing reference resources like the one from Usoskin et al. Other groups can then go and look to see whether and where genes of interest are expressed. No need to reinvent the wheel if someone already did the work and makes it freely available.
  4. Small clinical validation in paper: this is really going over and above, but that’s likely one reason it ended up in Cell. Using the preclinical insights from this work to demonstrate the translational efficacy in humans in awesome. I realize few of us get that opportunity, but for those whose goal it is to affect human pain/itch with our work, this is the gold standard; this is what we should aim for.