Home Features Best of 2013 The Best of 2013 // #94: The Science of the Itch

The Best of 2013 // #94: The Science of the Itch

The Best of 2013 // #94: The Science of the Itch
Middle aged man scratching back with back scratchier, rear view, upper half

Scientists have been trying to figure out exactly why we get itchy for a long time.  Recent studies have shown that the feeling of an itch, previously believed to be a mild version of pain, actually involves it’s own neural connections.  What was causing the sensation, however, still remained a mystery.

In May, Santos Mishra, a molecular geneticist, and Mark Hoon from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in Bethesda, Md said they had located the neurons that produce a chemical called Nppb, which sets off the itch response in the body.  Mice that were altered to lack Nppb became impervious to itches, but retained a sense of heat and pain.
According to Mark Hoon, being able to indemnify those neurons that produce Nppb may be able to lead to drugs that can offer relief from difficult-to-treat forms of chronic itchiness – such was eczema or psoriasis.

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