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Scientists find way to 'turn off' sensation of feeling cold

People cross back across the frozen Volga River toward Samara
Don't you hate it when you feel cold? Your muscles stiffen and joints ache as the temperature drops. What if it was possible to "turn off" the neuron responsible for sensing cold?
Scientists at the University of Southern California have been studying how the body reacts to extreme temperatures, in particular cold. Whilst many of us may not like cold weather there are people who have extreme sensitivities to cold temperatures.
The research involved mice. The scientists discovered a way to turn off the neuron responsible for sensing cold in mice. The research team now hope that this can be used to help humans.
The neuron channel, called TRPM8 is responsible for sensing "normal cold responses in mammals" reports US News.. The neurobiologist responsible for this research is David McKenny. Tuesday the findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
In the study the mice were still able to feel warm and pain but could not distinguish between cold and warm. In the case of mice used for the research the change was irreversible. Once the neuron channel was turned off, it could not be turned back on.
So how did the research work? McKenny was able to eliminate the neurons by injecting mice with a form of the bacteria that causes diphtheria, which causes upper respiratory problems in humans. His team coded the bacteria to specifically kill cells containing TRPM8.
The research, however, could offer hope to those who suffer from cold temperatures. The example given is patients undergoing Chemotherapy. In some patients Chemo can result in extreme sensitivity to the cold.
It will now be up to pharmaceutical companies to develop a drug which could temporarily switch off the neuron responsible for sensing cold?
As McKenny explains, don't think that in time you will be able to take a pill which will stop you feeling the cold. Our bodies sense and feel the cold in order to protect ourselves. For those people though who may be hyper-sensitive to cold temperatures there may one day be help available.


#1Feb 14, 2013 Yukio Strachan
Great intro, Eileen!
#2Feb 14, 2013 Eileen Kersey
Thank you Yukio
#3Feb 14, 2013 David Silverberg
I know so many women would could use this....And I don't mean to be sexist, but have you noticed many women feel colder than men? Some say it's poor circulation, others say it's due to female attire being more skirt-esque, allowing air to make them colder than guys wearing pants.
#4Feb 14, 2013 Kenan BartaN
Whatever the case this is NOT good. As stated in the article we have that sense in order to prevent Hypothermia and death from the cold. Also losing the sensation in hands and feet is likey to lose limbs. I think the tech they designed of heated jackets and glove heater packets and heated boots that all run on such minimal battery power is better than some genetic trick.
#5Feb 14, 2013 Eileen Kersey
David you must know young women, and I do not mean to be ageist :) Ladies of a certain age endure 'tropical moments' and could with the reverse I think.
#6Feb 14, 2013 Eileen Kersey
Kenan you make valid points. I think the scientists are looking at a temporary fix with Chemo patients and diabetics mainly in mind
#7Feb 14, 2013 Amanda Payne
I wonder if this would help those of us who have Raynauds Syndrome, an auto-immune disorder that leaves the extremities very vulnerable to the cold? I suspect that you are better off feeling cold and doing something about it rather than waiting for frostbite to set in, as Kenan says.
#8Feb 14, 2013 Barbara McPherson
Sounds just peachy. Use the toxin from the diptheria bacterium and inject it so you won't feel cold. Then use the toxin from the bacterium that causes botulism to stop you from frowning. You could just stick an electrode into the hypothalamus and mess up the temperature controls in your brain -- direct action for a trivial problem!
#9Feb 14, 2013 Sherene Chen-See
I don't think this is a great idea for your average person like me who just hates the cold. But for those with Raynaud's - maybe. Not so sure we want to be messing with their bodies either unless their condition is severe.
#10Feb 14, 2013 Andrew Moran
Good. I hate looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame when I'm hunching over trying to walk in this ugly weather.

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