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Scientists unravel mechanisms in chronic itching

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Posted October 16, 2013

Anyone who has suffered through sleepless nights due to uncontrollable itching knows that not all itching is the same. New research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis explains why.

Scientists unravel mechanisms in chronic itching
In genetically engineered mice that are prone to chronic itching, researchers identified elevated signaling (shown in red) in nerve cells involved in both itch and in pain. Credit: Washington University Center for the Study of Itch
 

Working in mice, the scientists have shown that chronic itching, which can occur in many medical conditions, from eczema and psoriasis to kidney failure and liver disease, is different from the fleeting urge to scratch a mosquito bite.

That’s because chronic itching appears to incorporate more than just the nerve cells, or neurons, that normally transmit itch signals. The researchers found that in chronic itching, neurons that send itch signals also co-opt pain neurons to intensify the itch sensation.

The new discovery may lead to more effective treatments for chronic itching that target activity in neurons involved in both pain and itch. The research is reported online Oct. 15 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation and will appear in the November print issue.

Read more at: MedicalXpress

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