February 13, 2013
Scientists at the University of Southern California have found a way to turn off the neuron responsible for sensing cold in mice, and it could help humans who have extreme sensitivities to cold temperatures.
The neuron channel, called TRPM8, is responsible for sensing “normal cold responses in mammals,” according to David McKenny, the neurobiologist responsible for the study, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience Tuesday. By turning it off in mice, the animals turned “insensitive to cool and painfully cold temperatures” and “did not distinguish between cold and a preferred warm temperature.” The mice were still able to feel warm temperatures and pain.
Though the process is currently irreversible, McKenny says if pharmaceutical companies can develop a drug that will make the effect temporary, it could be useful for patients with certain conditions that make them hypersensitive to cold temperatures.
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