Researchers discover way to block body's response to cold

March 1, 2012

Researchers at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, in collaboration with Amgen Inc. and several academic institutions, have discovered a way to block the body's response to cold using a drug. This finding could have significant implications in treating conditions such as stroke and cardiac arrest.

The research, led by Andrej Romanovsky, MD, PhD, Director of the Laboratory (FeverLab), which is a part of St. Joseph's Trauma Research program, was published in the Feb. 8 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. The groundbreaking discovery has also been highlighted in Scientific American.

Lowering the body's temperature is an effective way to treat certain conditions because of the body's decreased need for at low temperatures. However, natural defense mechanisms to maintain a steady temperature – such as shivering, vasoconstriction and heat generation by brown adipose tissue – can make it difficult to lower body temperature in unanesthetized patients. Dr. Romanovsky and his team believe they have discovered a pharmacological method to inhibit these natural defense mechanisms.

Their research focuses on the TRPM8 (transient receptor potential melastatin-8 channel) receptor, a protein responsible for the sensation of feeling cold, and on M8-B, a drug that acts as a TRPM8 antagonist. Dr. Romanovsky's team discovered that M8-B inhibited multiple cold-defense mechanisms in mice and rat models. This TRPM8-antagonist-induced hypothermia is the first example of a change in the deep body temperature of an animal occurring as a result of the documented pharmacological blockade of temperature signals at the thermoreceptor level.

"Humans have used the same mechanisms to defend themselves against cold since the days of the caveman," says Dr. Romanovsky. "Our study is significant because it is the first time we have been able to block the body's natural defense mechanisms using a selective pharmacological antagonist. We believe that this approach will be used in the future to induce mild therapeutic hypothermia in unanesthetized patients, as well as to maintain deep body temperature, and perhaps the activity of some thermoeffectors, at desired levels."

Dr. Romanovsky also believes that this finding is the beginning of thermopharmacology, a new discipline that uses drugs to block temperature signals that the body receives from the environment and thus to alter body temperature for treating specific conditions.

Explore further: Menthol receptor also important in detecting cold temperatures

Related Stories

Menthol receptor also important in detecting cold temperatures

June 7, 2007

The ion channel activated by menthol also detects a wide range of cold temperatures and relays the information to the brain, according to a study in Nature by Yale School of Medicine, the University of California at San Francisco, ...

Hypothermia: Staying Safe in Cold Weather

January 15, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Frigid weather can pose special risks to older adults. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has some advice for helping older people avoid hypothermia -- when ...

New era of pain drugs advanced by Barrow researcher

February 9, 2010

Research led by a scientist at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center has opened the door for the advancement of a new category of painkillers, called TRPV1 antagonists.

When do newborns first feel cold?

June 17, 2010

Cold sensing neural circuits in newborn mice take around two weeks to become fully active, according to a new study.

New role of TRPV1 receptors in locomotor activity regulation

February 1, 2011

Research by a Barrow Neurological Institute scientist on the thermoregulatory effects of a receptor more commonly studied for its role in pain is the cover story in the Feb. 2 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. The research ...

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.