Cold can relieve pain and reduce inflammation says the new study findings. Protein senses cold Single receptor responds to cold and menthol:
Three papers, two published recently in Neuron and the third in this week's issue of Nature, have shown that mice rely on a single protein, called TRPM8, to sense both cold temperatures and menthol, the compound that gives mints their cool sensation.
The sensor also controls the pain-relieving effect of cool temperatures, but does not seem to play an important role in the response to painfully cold temperatures below 10 C.
TRPM8 is in the same family as the protein that detects heat and capsaicin, the compound that makes peppers hot. These proteins lie in the cell membranes of select neurons, and form channels that open and close in response to external signals.
Both cold temperatures and menthol trigger TRPM8 to open, allowing small, positively charged molecules, such as calcium ions, to pour into the cell.