Pain and Itch Signals
In the July, 2011 issue of Scientific American, Anna Kuchment interviews Zhou-Feng Chen, the Director of the Center for the Study of Itch at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. Apparently approximately 17% of adults may suffer from chronic itch.
At the Washington University School of Medicine they are trying to determine how the nervous system transmits the itch signal. It has been held as a popular belief that itch and pain were transmitted through the same pathway. However, Zhou-Feng Chen and his colleagues discovered, 3 years ago, a subset of neurons in mouse spinal cords through which all itch sensations pass.
Through research we now know that itch signals are transmitted through separate pathways and that they antagonize pain signals. This knowledge now offers the possibility of being able to block that particular molecular signaling pathway.
One fascinating feature that has been discovered is the biological functions of pain and itch are different. If you feel pain, you will tend to withdraw to protect yourself, but if you feel an itch, you will move your hands toward it to relieve the itch.
Zhou-Feng Chen and the researchers have still many unanswered questions. What causes the itch sensation initially? How does this information flow in the body and how do different kinds of diseases (such as psoriasis or kidney failure) activate the itch receptor?
We look forward to discovering the secrets of the of the itch.
Scribe of Camelot
Source: Scientific American