Figuring out the science of wasabi’s heat could be a way to develop new treatments to prevent or reduce pain.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are studying how the human body reacts to wasabi

Wasabi receptor 3D image
Advanced imaging techniques enabled this 3D picture of the “wasabi receptor” protein. (Source: UCSF.)

— the hot Japanese horseradish typically found accompanying sushi or sashimi. Their latest observations unveil the “wasabi receptor” and exactly how chemicals in wasabi activate the sensory process identify possible channels for novel pain treatments.

That receptor, which they call TRPA1, plays a role in the body’s ability to sense things like environmental irritants, in addition to the heat from wasabi, so the researchers believe that learning how TRPA1 works not only will lead to understanding how basic pain sensations occur but also ways to prevent or reduce pain.

“The pain system is there to warn us when we need to avoid things that can cause injury, but also to enhance protective mechanisms,” said David Julius, PhD, professor and chair of UCSF’s Department of Physiology, and co-senior author of the new study, which appears in the April 8, 2015 online issue of Nature. “Knowing more about how TRPA1 works is important for understanding basic pain mechanisms. Of course, this information may also help guide the design of new analgesic drugs.”



Here’s an expert from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health answering some of the most common questions that people have about the Ebola Virus, Ebola Virus Disease, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In these video clips, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed addresses ways people in the United States can stay safe, why health experts are confident about the precautions recommended for Ebola prevention, and why controlling the outbreaks in West Africa is important to protecting the rest of the world from the disease. Dr. El-Sayed’s research focuses on the social production of health, ethnic and socioeconomic health inequalities, and complex systems approaches in social epidemiology. He earned his medical degree at Columbia University as a Soros Fellow, as well as a DPhil in Population Health at Oxford University, where I was a Rhodes Scholar (Michigan and Oriel, 2009). I am a 2007 graduate of the University of Michigan, where I completed a Bachelor of Science with Highest Distinction in Biology and Political Science as the top graduate in the College of Literature, Sicence, and the Arts.