The molecular mechanism that enables us to sense temperature, such as the heat from a sizzling stove, has been decoded by a group of experts.
The finding by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) could one day lead to new therapies for conditions such as acute or chronic inflammatory pain.
AdvertisementThe study, which was led by Scripps Research and GNF Professor Ardem Patapoutian, was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
To understand temperature sensation, the researchers focused on a protein called TRPV1, which is a member of a small family of proteins known to enable temperature sensation, and is involved in inflammation and the communication of pain to the brain. After producing thousands of mutants of this protein, the scientists were able to identify a region of the protein that enabled temperature sensitivity and to detail some of the molecular mechanisms at work in the molecule.
"Ever since the discovery of these proteins, it has been an outstanding question how they can be activated by temperatures," said Research Associate Jvrg Grandl, a member of the Patapoutian lab and first author of the paper. "The new study addresses this question."
"Because our ability to sense temperature is closely linked to our ability to sense pain, some of these ion channels are considered targets to treat chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain indications," said Patapoutian. "Understanding these proteins could be crucial in designing future drugs that can either activate or block them."