Capsaicin, the chemical that makes chili peppers spicy, has long been an ingredient in pain-relief creams, but scientists have only just discovered how the fiery molecule quiets sore nerves, muscles and joints.
Capsaicin turns on a protein that senses heat and starts an unexpected chain reaction that inhibits proteins that detect stretching of cell membranes, Tibor Rohacs of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark and colleagues report in the Feb. 10 Science Signaling. Researchers already knew capsaicin activates a heat-sensing protein called Trpv1. That’s why rubbing creams containing capsaicin on the skin produces a burning sensation.
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