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Posts Tagged ‘Cold’

Congratulations to this year’s Nobel Prize winners in Medicine for their work on sensory awareness.

In a year dominated by a worldwide pandemic, where the one and only thing I wanted was to hug my grandchildren again, we now know how our neurotransmitters relay the touch of a loved one to our brains! Ironic, don’t you think.

“David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, from the US, share the 2021 prize in Medicine or Physiology for their work on sensing touch and temperature…. (the latter’s) experiments led to the discovery of a different type of receptor that was activated in response to mechanical force or touch. When you walk along a beach and feel the sand under your feet – it is these receptors that are sending signals to the brain.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-58787438

While Patapoutian was discovering a touch receptor that factors into our body’s ability to sense it’s time to urinate among other things, Julius was working on sensing the burning heat of a chili pepper. The hot culprit is the chemical capsaicin.

Last week I tried out a new recipe for Mexican street corn. I happened to have a pablano chili pepper which is probably the most mild pepper around. I like to chop one into my turkey vegetable chili, but this time I roasted the pepper before adding it to the corn – and I didn’t take the skin off. Even without the seeds, this almost bland chili transformed itself, adding quite a lot of heat. Bob loved it.

I know, you’re probably thinking “Big Deal.” So science is again just telling us what we already know – it hurts to slip and fall on the deck and never order Nashville’s hot chicken. But we didn’t actually know what these touch and heat receptors were, connected to our brains, and now that they have been identified there are profound implications.

Like treating chronic pain, for example.

Every now and then my foster mother Nell would yell, “You’re a pain in the neck!” Of course, I was usually doing something she disapproved of, but today it seems like a prophesy. My doctor recently told me I have severe cervical arthritis. Not to brag, or become one of those seniors who harps on their infirmities, sometimes I would like to have someone shoot a large needle of novacaine in my trapezius.

But what if my neck didn’t send a shot of pain to my brain whenever I move it a certain way? What if, as we age, and as we shrink, and our spinal cartilage collapses, our brain still thinks we’re 35? Or maybe 50!

The broad implications of treating addiction in the future are exciting. Less suffering in the world is a good thing. I may even start cooking with jalapeno peppers! Depending on the outcome of the two bills hovering around Congress, and the start of a new SCOTUS season filled with challenges to Roe and guns, this scientific breakthrough – about touch and heat – should give us hope for a better future.

Mexican street corn

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