Study Reveals Evolution of Human Cold- and Menthol-Sensing Protein, Offering Hope for Future Non-Addictive Pain Therapies

Menthol sensing appeared long before cold sensing, suggesting distinct activation modes that can be disentangled, paving the way for new pain therapies without adverse thermal side effects.


Chronic pain affects millions worldwide, and current treatments often rely on opioids, which carry risks of addiction and overdose. Non-addictive alternatives could revolutionize pain management, and new research targeting the human protein which regulates cold sensations, brings scientists closer to developing pain medications that don't affect body temperature and don't carry the risks of addiction. Research published in Science Advances on June 21, led by Wade Van Horn, professor in Arizona State University’s School of Molecular Sciences and Biodesign Center for Personalized Diagnostics, with colleagues, has uncovered new insights into the main human cold and menthol sensor TRPM8 (transient receptor potential melastatin 8). Using techniques from many fields like biochemistry and biophysics, their study revealed that TRPM8 was a chemical sensor before it became a cold temperature sensor. The open-access article is titled “Evidence That the Cold- and Menthol-Sensing Functions of the Human TRPM8 Channel Evolved Separately.”

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