Such a long time, do you think persistence, determination and being passionate about your work is necessary for any scientist?
Absolutely, I keep telling people in my life when they have troubles that persistence pays off.
The insights of your work could have great practical applications, like potential new painkillers. Could you tell us about this?
If there is a practical goal, then it is to develop nonopioid drugs, to treat pain without the potential addictive side effects of opioid drugs. We do not do that translation work [of turning research into practical applications]. There are lots of drug companies that are screening drugs, compounds, different molecules, and how they work on the TRPV1 and TRPA1 receptors.
What about the temperature-sensitive receptors?
First of all, we worked on natural products, like chili peppers and mint leaves that we use a lot in our kitchen. But from a clinical point of view, especially TRPV1 and TRPA1, those enhance pain during inflammation. So, they are not only involved in sensing temperature or chemical irritants, but they contribute to pain hypersensitivity when you have an injury, like arthritis. Therefore, many companies are interested in having drugs that modulate these receptors.
What about TRPM8, the menthol receptor?
Menthol mimics the sensation of cold, which activates TRPM8 receptors, also known as cold receptors. We use a lot of those products every day, like in toothpaste, for example. There are injuries that make you hypersensitive to cold, like an injury to nerve fibers. There could be medical applications to treat this cold hypersensitivity after nerve injuries.