OK, so giving a mouse de facto hypothermia is not really the greatest idea in the world. So why are scientists doing it?
Because it might lead to better pain medication.
First, the mice who won’t know if they’re cold as ice. Essentially, the mice were given a little brain surgery that proved surprisingly effective. Researchers removed the neurons that express a specific protein, TRPM8. Yes, they removed pieces of their brains. Then, they cut them loose in a controlled environment and discovered that brain surgery made super-mice:
Members of the control group mostly stayed in an area with a temperature of about 30ºC (86ºF), avoiding both hot and cold extremes. The altered mice also avoided the overly-hot areas, but readily wandered into the coldest regions, even when the surface temperature was cold enough to be painful or dangerous.
So, aside from giving mice frostbite, why should we care about this? The basic idea is to develop drugs that target specific sensations, so that instead of getting stuffed full of drugs that make you feel numb all over and inspire Pink Floyd songs, you can have medication that targets the specific sensation you’re feeling.
Granted, this won’t take the place of actually getting that cut stitched up like an intelligent person instead of a macho idiot. But it will make life easier for people suffering from specific types of pain, who can take a pill and make it stop without getting dopey.
Also, cold-insensitive mice mean we can hide them in a fridge for pranks. Thanks, science!