TRP Channels

Volume: 2
Issue: 2
February 15, 2007
TRP Channels

Dear Colleagues:

I was waiting to write this newsletter in the hope that our “Mid-winter Neural Therapy Retreat” would provide something interesting to relay to you—and I was not disappointed. A number of “pearls” were presented by not only the invited speakers but also by the many talented and experienced physicians and dentists attending.

An old country inn in the Ottawa Valley was the venue, chosen because of its relaxed and comfortable environment. It was a great place to rest and relax, but participants instead chose to use every possible minute to learn, teach and exchange ideas. Far more information came forward than can be covered in this space, but for something a little different I chose the following, in the hope that you find it interesting:

Circumventricular organs:
Among the speakers was Professor Alastair Ferguson, a research neurophysiologist and chairman of the Physiology Department at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He had been asked to provide us with a report of recent developments in autonomic nervous system research. This he did by presenting some of his own research on autonomic control neurons at the “blood brain interface”, in the circumventricular organs. The function of these cells (that lie outside the blood brain barrier) is to sample the chemical properties of the blood and to send this information across the blood-brain barrier to the autonomic nervous system control centers.

TRP channels:
That these sensing cells even exist is interesting enough, but even more interesting is how they work. Embedded in the cell membranes are calcium channels, that when stimulated in a specific way allow inflow of calcium ions and a transient change in cell membrane potential. These channels are called TRP channels, TRP standing for transient receptor potential.

TRP channels respond to a variety of specific stimuli: some to changes in osmolarity, some to mechanical strain, others to temperature changes, to light, to various chemicals, to pheronomes, cytokines, etc. They are found in all cells in all animals, from worms to mammals. Certain types of TRP channels are expressed more frequently in some cells and even in parts of some cells, hence Professor Ferguson’s special interest in the physiology of the circumventricular organs.

TRP channels have been called “an ancient sensory apparatus for the cell”. This is how primitive organisms lacking special senses sense their environments. But their presence in higher animals including man, shows that our ability to sense the environment, both interior and exterior, goes beyond our five special senses.

Clinical applications: 
These discoveries have a number of implications for physicians practicing neural therapy. Two stand out in my mind immediately:

  1. The “internal milieu”, or chemistry of the extracellular fluid affects autonomic nervous system function not just at the periphery, but also centrally through afferent signals to the autonomic control centers from the circumventricular organs. This supports the clinical observation that the success of neural therapy depends on a healthy internal environment. Attention to nutrition, allergy, toxicology and the patient’s general medical condition goes hand in hand with effective neural therapy.
  2. Autonomic response testing may be one step closer to possessing at least some scientific rationale. The autonomic response of the body to biologically active substances placed near it is hard to explain and perhaps research into TRP channel physiology will provide the answers!

Clinical observations often precede scientific explanations. TRP channel research is an area that neural therapists might want to follow in coming years.

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