Have you ever stopped to think about how mint leaves that famously cold feeling? A team of researchers tried to accurately answer this question, through an article published in the journal Sciences. This freshness has nothing to do with temperature, and the secret lies in our brain.
In the research paper, the researchers reveal how cold-sensitive ion channels in mouse neurons are activated by chemical compounds found in menthol. According to the researchers, this sensation occurs specifically through the activation of transient receptor-transient melastatin (TRPM8) ion channels.
These channels are expressed in sensory neurons and are directly related to the sensation of cold in humans. As experts explain, our cells are covered with a lipid bilayer: like a small protective suit made of a double layer of lipid.
Meanwhile, ion channels act as special proteins, embedded in the cell membrane, that allow ions to enter and exit, and can be triggered by a range of stimuli, from pressure, heat, and even chemical signals.
For the potential transient receptor agonist 8 (TRPM8), menthol is one such agent. With the help of the protein, menthol completely binds to TRPM8.
The scientists conducted experiments on rodents and observed that TRPM8 deficiency hampered not only the understanding of cold detection, but also therapeutic developments targeting this important sensory receptor. Researchers believe that a better understanding of this peppermint-induced interaction could lead to the development of future treatments.
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