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Scientists Are ‘Itching’ to Help People Stop Scratching

Researchers discover itch-producing neurons (June 5)

Researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School have come up with new findings that may be able to stop itching by silencing the neurons that transmit itch-generating stimuli.

The study demonstrated the presence of functionally distinct sets of neurons that detect and transmit itch-generating stimuli. Moreover, the researchers were able to selectively target and silence the itch-generating neurons while active. According to the investigators, these results provide a basis for the development of new therapeutic approaches for selective treatment of previously unmet itching not induced by histamine (non-histaminergic itch), such as allergic dermatitis.

The new findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.

An understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the sensation of itch is essential for the development of effective and selective treatment of itch, which in some cases could become a devastating condition, say the researchers.

Their findings suggest that primary itch-generating neurons that carry messages toward the central nervous system code functionally distinct histaminergic and non-histaminergic itch pathways, which can be selectively blocked.

Source: Hebrew University of Jerusalem; June 5, 2013.

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