Star-Nosed Mole Reveals How Mammals Perceive Touch, PainMain Category: Pain / Anesthetics
Also Included In: Genetics; Neurology / Neuroscience
Article Date: 02 Feb 2013 - 0:00 PST
Star-Nosed Mole Reveals How Mammals Perceive Touch, Pain
|Patient / Public:|
1 (1 votes)
The most sensitive patch of mammalian skin known to us isn't human but on the star-shaped tip of the star-nosed mole's snout. Researchers studying this organ have found that the star has a higher proportion of touch-sensitive nerve endings than pain receptors, according to a study published in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Diana Bautista and colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley and Vanderbilt University.
Touch and pain are closely intertwined sensations, but very little is known about how these sensations are detected in our cells. In this study, the authors turned to a unique species for answers: the star-nosed mole. In addition to its distinction as the fastest-eating mammal known, the star-nosed mole also possesses one of the most sensitive tactile organs known in the animal kingdom. The star on its nose has the highest density of nerve endings known in any mammalian skin, with over 100,000 fibers in a patch of skin about 1 cm. in diameter. The authors found these nerve endings significantly enriched in neurons sensitive to light touch, with a lower proportion of neurons that detect and respond to pain.
The novel touch and pain receptors they identified in the star-nosed mole were also detected in sensory receptors in mice and humans, suggesting that these receptors are likely to be more common across other mammals as well. According to the authors, their results highlight how examining diverse and highly specialized species can reveal fundamental aspects of biology common across different animals. Lead author on the study Bautista says, "By studying the star-nosed mole we identified candidate genes that may mediate touch and pain. These genes represent new potential targets for the development of much needed drugs and therapies to treat chronic pain."
Visit our pain / anesthetics section for the latest news on this subject.
Financial Disclosure: The authors are supported by a U.S. National Institutes of Health Innovator Award DOD007123A, the Pew Scholars Program, and the McKnight Scholars Fund (to DMB) and NSF grant 0844743 (to KCC). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
LINK TO THE SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055001
Public Library of Science
21 May. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/255672.php>
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
Contact Our News Editors
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact the editors please use our feedback form.
Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.