Transient Receptor Potential Ion Channels Are Sensory Ion Channels with Many Potentials in the Chemical Environment

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Sven-Eric Jordt, PhD, associate professor of Anesthesiology and of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at the Duke University School of Medicine and with Duke’s Integrated Toxicology & Environmental Health Program, received the Leading Edge in Basic Science Award. Dr. Jordt delivered his Award Lecture on “Sensing the Chemical Environment: Receptors, Mechanisms, and Implications for Toxicology” during the SOT 58th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo.

At the outset, Dr. Jordt gave a preamble of his research in a detailed manner to bring the audience on the same boat. Dr. Jordt presented cutting-edge basic science research in transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels as sensors of several chemicals, including but not limited to chlorine gas, tear gas agents, sulfur mustard gas, methyl isocyanate, and acrolein. Some of his basic science research findings advanced to translational research in counteracting chemical threat agent skin and lung injuries. In particular, his laboratory found that when TRP vanilloid (TRPV4) ion channel inhibitors were administered post-chlorine-gas exposure, the lung injury was ameliorated dramatically. These findings were independently demonstrated in two different animal models. TRPV4 inhibitors are in advanced-stage development as medical countermeasures against chlorine gas–induced lung injuries.

Dr. Jordt showed that tear gas mediates its effects through the TRPA1 ion channel. He insisted on the need for reclassification of tear gas agents as nerve gas because of their action on the sensory nerve endings in the eyes, respiratory tract, and mucous membrane causing irritation and painful stimuli.   

He also demonstrated how these TRP ion channels mediate pain and inflammation signaling. He showed that the natural products such as capsaicin in chili peppers; menthol in peppermint; and mustard oil in mustard, horseradish, and wasabi activate TRP ion channels. He showed that inhibiting TRP ion channels alleviated pain in animal models.

In another research arm, Dr. Jordt showed that menthol flavor reduces the irritation of cigarette smoke through cooling effects and increases nicotine addiction. More interestingly, his laboratory found that flavors used in e-cigarette liquids form stable toxic adducts with the solvents in e-liquids.

Overall, Dr. Jordt’s Award Lecture focused on targeting TRP ion channels in treating chemical threat agent–induced injuries; treatment of pain, allergy, asthma, and itch; and modulation of addiction to nicotine.

This blog was prepared by an SOT Reporter. SOT Reporters are SOT members who volunteer to write about sessions and events they attend during the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. If you are interested in participating in the SOT Reporter program in the future, please email Giuliana Macaluso.

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