Scientists discover a molecular mechanism that inhibits the exaggerated stimulation of sensory nerve cells.
Everyone knows what sunburn feels like. At first, there may only be a slight feeling of unease. But once we take a hot shower, the inflamed skin immediately starts to burn. This is caused by a special receptor, the capsaicin receptor TRPV1: During inflammatory processes, it reports an exaggerated sensation of pain to the brain. But when scientists tempted to block TRPV1 – hoping to find new drugs to treat debilitating forms of pain in which the capsaicin receptor is also implicated – patients were confronted with a new problem: They suffered from overheating. In fact, TRPV1 is also responsible for the regulation of the body temperature.
In a combined genetic-proteomic approach, scientists around CellNetworks member Prof. Dr. Jan Siemens at the Institute of Pharmacology at the Heidelberg University Hospital identified the receptor subunit GABAB1 as part of the TRPV1 protein complex in sensory nerve cells. They discovered that activating GABAB1 gradually reverts the oversensitivity of TRPV1 – the pain eases and the regulation of the body temperature stays intact. Their findings, presented in this video, open up new possibilities for future pain therapy