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article imageScientists find way to 'turn off' sensation of feeling cold

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By Eileen Kersey     Feb 13, 2013 in Science
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.
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