Finding Menthol Sensory Receptor Could Lead to Better Pain Treatments
The protein in the peripheral nervous system that gives mice the ability to sense cold and menthol has been identified, according to three recent journal articles. Menthol receptor TRPM8, as this protein is known, is found in humans and researchers believe these findings extend to people.
“[The receptor] provides a target for studying acute and chronic pain, as can result from inflammatory or nerve injury, the researchers say, and a potential new target for treating pain.
“’By understanding how sensory receptors work, how thresholds for temperature are determined, we gain insight into how these thresholds change in the setting of injury, such as inflammatory and nerve injury, and how these changes may contribute to chronic pain,’ says senior author David Julius, PhD, chairman and professor of physiology at UCSF.” (from UCSF press release, Detecting Cold, Feeling Pain: Study Reveals Why Menthol Feels Fresh)
Although the article only addresses pain caused by physical injury, it seems that the findings can apply to headache too. Nerves outside the brain, which are called peripheral nerves, become sensitized in both migraine and tension-type headaches. This is the source of allodynia — being sensitive to touch or feeling like your hair hurts.
Central Sensitization Determines Ideal Time for Migraine Treatment is the most reader friendly article that describes the role of peripheral nerves in migraine. I can only find basic information on tension-type headache and peripheral nerves. Do you know of any good resources on the topic?
I know I’m skimming the surface here. Any comments on the study or the role of peripheral and central sensitization in headache and migraine will be greatly appreciated.