Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists catch cold

11.02.2002


Snow may chill us through one or more receptors
© SPL


New skin receptor is the tip of the iceberg.

A snowball in the face or a chilly breeze around the ankles opens a molecular trap door in our skin’s nerve cells, two studies now show1,2. A third suggests that this, the first cold sensor to be identified, is just the tip of the iceberg3.

How sensory neurons detect a drop in temperature is very hard to study because it affects so many cell processes.



David Julius of the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues resorted to using menthol, which has the same effects on cold-sensitive nerves as a drop in temperature. "Technically it is much easier to use a chemical," says Julius.

Julius’s team took genes for a host of unknown receptors normally found on the surface of sensory nerve cells and inserted them into human kidney cells1. The confused kidney cells dutifully produced the receptors on their surface, which the team then exposed to menthol.

One receptor fitted the bill perfectly. It now has the catchy name cold- and menthol-sensitive receptor (CMR1); it is an ion channel. It opens in the presence of menthol, allowing potassium and calcium ions to flood into a nerve cell. Cooling has the same effect on it.

In a separate study, using different methods, Ardem Patapoutin at the Scripps research Institute in La Jolla, California identified another, possibly the same, cold receptor. While it’s too early to tell, Patapoutin says he’d "bet they’re the same".

A specific receptor for cold is a surprise, says Amy MacDermott a physiologist at Columbia University in New York. "It is totally unknown and extremely interesting," she says. Given the difficulties of studying the mechanisms of cold detection, Julius’s team "makes a very good case," she says.

Cold comfort

A single sensor doesn’t explain everything. Félix Viana, a physiologist at Miguel Herná¡ndez University in Alicante, Spain, and colleagues have found that cold-sensitive nerves have a unique number of the ordinary potassium ion channels that are common to all nerves. "This specialized blend of ion channels makes them sensitive to cooling," he says.

The Spanish group looked for a specific receptor but didn’t find one, says Viana. But "just because you don’t find something it doesn’t mean it’s not there," he admits.

The three studies present new and different explanations for how we detect cold. Physiologist Arthur Craig at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, wonders whether a lone cold sensor would be diverse enough to explain the range of temperatures that our skin is sensitive to. Viana’s model accounts for this, he points out.

Like any well-engineered system, the body’s temperature-sensing network almost certainly has back-up mechanisms. Says Craig: "Biology is based on redundancy" - the teams are probably just working on different parts of the problem. "We can be sure that the biology is more complex than either study," he adds.

References

  1. McKemy, D. D., Neuhausser, W. M. & Julius, D. Identification of a cold receptor reveals a general role for TRP channels in thermosensation. Nature advance online publication, (2002).
  2. Peier, A. M. et al. A TRP channel that senses cold stimuli and menthol. Cell advance online publication, (2002).
  3. Viana, F., de la Peña, E. & Belmonte, C. Specificity of cold thermotransduction is determined by differential ionic channel expression. Nature Neuroscience advance online publication, (2002).


TOM CLARKE | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/020204/020204-14.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rising water temperatures could endanger the mating of many fish species
03.07.2020 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Moss protein corrects genetic defects of other plants
03.07.2020 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

Im Focus: AI monitoring of laser welding processes - X-ray vision and eavesdropping ensure quality

With an X-ray experiment at the European Synchrotron ESRF in Grenoble (France), Empa researchers were able to demonstrate how well their real-time acoustic monitoring of laser weld seams works. With almost 90 percent reliability, they detected the formation of unwanted pores that impair the quality of weld seams. Thanks to a special evaluation method based on artificial intelligence (AI), the detection process is completed in just 70 milliseconds.

Laser welding is a process suitable for joining metals and thermoplastics. It has become particularly well established in highly automated production, for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rising water temperatures could endanger the mating of many fish species

03.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Risk of infection with COVID-19 from singing: First results of aerosol study with the Bavarian Radio Chorus

03.07.2020 | Studies and Analyses

Efficient, Economical and Aesthetic: Researchers Build Electrodes from Leaves

03.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>