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April 29, 2010, 12:05 pm

Red hot chilli peppers stop pain!

Why do chilli peppers feel "hot"? And how can they stop pain?

What was discovered?       [No - nothing to do with music!]

The molecule that makes red chillie peppers H- h - o - o - o - t - t is called capsaicin.

[It doesn't give the colour red, though... can you find out what molecules make red peppers and tomatoes look red? You thought the pic was a mistake, eh?  Clue - look below in "I want to know more"] 

Molecules very similar to capsaicin were found inside our body where pain was felt.  Being able to block these molecules made the pain go away!

So, studying molecules in hot chilli peppers led to the discovery of a new pain pathway inside us.

How?

First, the molecules released inside us by injured cells had to be found - these are fatty acids called oxidized linoleic acid metabolites or OLAMs

These OLAMS bind to pain receptors causing PAIN, so the next step was to make molecules that could STOP the OLAMS binding.  The result?  NO PAIN!

Why is it important?

A major problem with many kinds of molecules that stop pain is that they can easily become addictive, but molecules stopping the pain caused by OLAMs were not!

These new molecules could be very helpful for people suffering a lot of pain for a long time in chronic diseases such as cancer and arthritis.