A new report in th May 31, 2019 issue of Science provides the first evidence of a mammal -- the highveld mole-rat, a close relative of the well-known and extraordinarily long-lived naked mole rat -- being immune to pain from exposure to allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), the active ingredient of wasabi. Wasabi is a plant of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes horseradish and mustard in other genera. A paste made from wasabi’s ground rhizomes is used as a pungent condiment for sushi and other foods. The scientists who studied the highveld mole rats say that understanding how these African rodents evolved to be insensitive to this specific type of pain could point to new directions for solving pain in humans. "Mole-rats are extremely curious animals and we have been studying them at UIC for more than 20 years," said study co-author Thomas Park, PhD, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "This new discovery -- that they have evolved to be insensitive to certain pain stimuli common in their environment -- is another example of the cool biological lessons to be learned from studying them." Dr. Park worked alongside scientists from the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin and the University of Pretoria in Pretoria, South Africa, on the study. The research was conducted at UIC and in South Africa. The new Science article is titled “Rapid Molecular Evolution of Pain Insensitivity in Multiple African Rodents.” The researchers exposed the paws of eight species of mole rats to three compounds that induce a pain-like response. The three compounds were AITC, an acidic solution with a pH similar to that of lemon juice, and capsaicin, the spicy ingredient in chili peppers.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story