Science Update – Turning off the cold?

Scientists have recently discovered how to “turn off” the sensation of feeling cold! In mice they blocked a specific protein, TRPM8 (which I have fondly renamed ‘trip-him-eight’), and observed that the mice no longer sensed coldness. Of course, this begs the question “how did they know the mice didn’t feel cold?” Did they ask the mice if they felt cold? Doubtful… Unless they also discovered the protein that makes mice talk. Did they have mice walk into circle A if they felt cold and circle B if they didn’t? Of course not, mice aren’t that smart (see story The Lab Rat below for the counter-argument). In reality, they probably inferred that the mice did not feel cold based on behavior. They would have observed mice that still had TRPM8 and how they reacted to cold environments. Maybe they huddled together or shivered. Then they would have also observed mice that did not have TRPM8, who just went about their normal daily mouse routines.

So why do we care? We wouldn’t want to permanently turn off feeling cold—it’s kind of important in preventing us from FREEZING TO DEATH (or just getting frostbite/pneumonia if you’re not into the whole pessimism thing). You wouldn’t want to be prancing around in the snow in shorts and a t-shirt having a blast, feeling nice a cozy warm and then all of a sudden drop dead from coldness that you couldn’t even feel. I would categorize that under “bad day.” However, on a more serious note, this discovery could truly pave the way for some interesting developments. We could potentially create a pill that blocks Mr. Trip-him-eight temporarily. Then skiers could go out and do their thing without feeling cold, people who have to work in cold environments (freezer storage, deep sea fishing in the Arctic, etc, etc) could be more comfortable, kids who have to walk to school or wait for the bus in the winter would be happier…

If you ask me, it’s pretty cool stuff (pun intended). For more information check it out here:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212172116.htm

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