Modelling sensory neuron-epithelial interactions

Project Details

In the respiratory system, sensory neurons are positioned in close proximity to epithelial cells, creating an epithelial-sensory neuron functional unit.  Infection, injury or damage to the epithelium, common in many pulmonary diseases, results in the release of chemical mediators that may dramatically alter sensory neuron function.  Describing these processes in more detail may deliver better therapeutic targets for treating disordered sensory neuron function in disease.

In this project we are developing novel human based in vitro models of the epithelial-sensory neuron functional unit using human stem cell derived sensory neurons co-cultured at air liquid interface with human epithelial cells.  These preparations will allow us to study the chemical and physical interactions between sensory neurons and epithelial cells, and to model the effects of viral, allergen or chemical exposure of the epithelium on sensory neurons.


Dr Alice McGovern, NHMRC Research Fellow

Nicole Kerr, Laboratory Manager

Jennifer Keller, PhD student

Alexandria Driessen, PhD student


Associate Professor Mirella Dottori

Dr Graham Mckay

Dr James Hudson, The University of Queensland

Professor Fan Chung, Imperial College London

Dr Lorcan McGarvey, Queens College Belfast


NHMRC (2015-18): Dissecting the central organisation of cough neural networks.

Research Publications

  • Mazzone SB, Undem BJ. Vagal Afferent Innervation of the Airways in Health and Disease. Physiol Rev 2016 Jul; 96(3): 975 1024.
  • Ando A, Smallwood D, McMahon M, Irving L, Mazzone SB, Farrell MJ. Neural correlates of cough hypersensitivity in humans: evidence for central sensitisation and dysfunctional inhibitory control. Thorax 2016 Apr; 71(4):323-9.
  • McGovern AE, Driessen AK, Simmons DG, Powell J, Davis-Poynter N, Farrell MJ, Mazzone SB. Distinct brainstem and forebrain circuits receiving tracheal sensory neuron inputs revealed using a novel conditional anterograde transsynaptic viral tracing system. J Neurosci 2015 May 6; 35(18):7041-55.

See ORCiD for a listing of Stuart's publications.

Research Group

Mazzone laboratory: Respiratory Sensory Neuroscience

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Cardio-Respiratory, Biomedical Neuroscience, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Neuroscience

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