Mary Ann Stepp is a PI on a research team that recently was awarded a 5-year $5.96 million dollar U01 grant from the National Eye Institute to study the cornea-trigeminal nerve circuit. The title of the project is "Effects of corneal epithelial barrier disruption on the cornea trigeminal neural circuit". The team consists of Mary Ann Stepp and three PI’s from Baylor College of Medicine: Dr. Cintia de Paiva (Associate Professor, BCM ophthalmology), Dr. Stephen Pflugfelder (BCM ophthalmology), and Dr. Rui Chen (Professor, BCM Genetics). The proposed experiments investigate the cornea epithelial-trigeminal sensory circuit at the cellular and molecular levels to identify factors that impact the cornea intraepithelial nerves in health and disease. Results of these studies should provide fundamental new understanding of the impact of corneal epithelial barrier disruption that occurs in common diseases such as dry eye and corneal abrasion on the integrity, function and pain signaling of the corneal epithelial nerve network.