Raritan, NJ (May 2, 2007) -- Researchers at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C. (J&JPRD) today announced that they have discovered a biological basis for explaining how people sense cold temperatures.
Ultimately, these findings may be a critical step in developing treatments for patients who suffer from hypersensitivity to cold, such as occurs in neuropathic pain and complex regional pain syndromes. This research is published in the May 3, 2007 issue of Neuron.
In the study, researchers sought to understand the mechanisms underlying cold sensitivity. Scientists used a line of mice that lacked a critical ion channel receptor called TRPM8, also referred to as the cold menthol receptor 1. Then, they tested how these mice reacted to cold stimuli, and found that not having these receptors reduced their adverse reactions to the cold, both under normal and pathological conditions. Results suggest that TRPM8 modulation could play an important role in certain types of cold-induced pain in humans and could hold therapeutic potential in the treatment of many chronic, painful conditions for which there are currently limited effective treatment options.
"This work represents the culmination of a multi-year collaborative effort on the part of J&JPRD scientists to help explain fundamental mechanisms involved in human pain states and may lead to the development of innovative medicines to relieve patient suffering," said Christopher Flores, Ph.D., Biology Team Leader for Analgesics, J&JPRD. "Although preliminary, these findings provide compelling initial evidence toward validating TRPM8 as an analgesic drug target and addressing major unmet medical needs of pain patients."
Ion channels are proteins that form tiny openings through the membrane of a cell and allow the passage of certain ions that regulate cellular activities. Some of these channels are opened by chemicals, some by changes in voltage and others by various temperatures. TRPM8 is a member of the thermo-TRP family of ion channels that respond to temperatures ranging from noxious heat to noxious cold. Many scientists think that modulating the signals carried through such channels represents an important strategy for designing drugs to treat a host of conditions, including pain.
"We have a long history of bringing patients innovative treatments for pain, from Tylenol, which was first introduced in the 1950's, to Jurnista, which was launched in Europe in 2006," said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Company Group Chairman, Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Johnson & Johnson. "Our ability to bring innovative treatments for these evolving needs starts with the understanding that not all pain is the same. Distinct biological mechanisms cause different kinds of pain, which means that while one drug target may be best for treating the neuropathic pain of a diabetes patient, another target may be better for easing the chronic pain of a patient with advanced osteoarthritis. We are committed to the discovery and development of new medicines to treat pain, and this initial discovery reflects the important research into many disease treatments being explored in our labs."
About Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development
Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C. (J&JPRD) is part of Johnson & Johnson, the world's most broadly based producer of healthcare products. J&JPRD is headquartered in Raritan, New Jersey (USA), and has facilities throughout Europe and the United States. J&JPRD is leveraging drug discovery and drug development in a variety of therapeutic areas to address unmet medical needs worldwide.