Narrator: This is Science Today. There's a rich history in neuroscience and in pain research for exploiting natural products as ways of identifying important players in pain sensation.
Julius: So, examples would include morphine — a natural product of the opium poppy and people have used that over the years to identify and define the basic components of the opiate and opiate signaling receptor pathway like endorphins and keflins and all he receptors for those things.
Narrator: Dr. David Julius, a biochemist and molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, led the first team to identify and clone a protein in capsaicin that's responsible for eliciting the burning sensation that one gets when eating hot chili peppers.
Julius: That was kind of like a Holy Grail in the pain pathway and in the pain field. The long-term goal is to really understand the basics of the system, to understand the basic molecular biology and biochemistry of sensory systems and in particular, of sensory systems that are involved in touch sensation and pain sensation.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.