Why is it so hot?
Before you eat that ghost pepper…
The last time I posted it was cold and getting colder so in this post I thought I would look at the other end of the perception spectrum and talk about the perception of noxious heat. The body perceives heat with proteins that are members of the transient receptor potential (TRP) channel group. In the last post we looked at TRPM8 and will now consider TRPV1, which alerts the body to temperatures that are greater than 108 Fahrenheit.
All these proteins are located on nerves and can be found on the skin, in the mouth and the digestive tract. TRPV1 when thermally stimulated produces signals that result in the body sweating to cool off. This channel is also chemically sensitive to capsaicin, the compound that makes peppers hot, and triggers many of the physical stimuli associated with eating hot foods or drinking hot beverages. This is the protein that responds to Flaming-hot Cheetos and hot sauce in the mouth.
Another interesting thing about TRPV1 is that when strongly stimulated may result in the perception of severe pain, my response to Flaming-hot Cheetos. This TRP channel is very responsive to cannabidiol (CBD) and is the subject of much of the research around the effects of CBD on pain perception. In future posts we will expand on the versatility of this channel in chemical perception.
Dr. Randal Stahl – Science Consultant