Scientists switch off ability to sense cold

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 13, 2013 10:20 hrs

Washington, Feb 13 (IANS) A group of American scientists have successfully managed to selectively shut off in mice the ability to feel cold while leaving the sensation of touch and heat intact.

Neuroscientists at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences have isolated chills at a cellular level, identifying the sensory network of neurons in the skin that relays the sensation of cold.

David McKemy, associate professor of neurobiology in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and his team managed to selectively shut off the ability to sense cold in mice while still leaving them able to sense heat and touch.

In prior work, McKemy discovered a link between the experience of cold and a protein known as TRPM8 (pronounced trip-em-ate), which a sensor of cold temperatures in neurons in the skin, as well as a receptor for menthol, the cooling component of mint.

Now, in a paper appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience Feb 13, McKemy and his co-investigators have isolated and ablated the neurons that express TRPM8, giving them the ability to test the function of these cells specifically.

The researchers found that mice depleted of TRPM8 neurons could not feel cold, but still responded to heat, reports Science Daily.

"One of our goals is to pave the way for medications that address the pain directly, in a way that does not leave patients completely numb," said McKermy.

More from Sify: