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Itchy wool sweaters explained
Date:1/2/2013

ing nerve cells, the mice had normal withdrawal responses to painful stimuli like hot water. However, when exposed to itchy stimuli, their scratching responses were reduced to varying degrees depending on the stimulus, most significantly in response to chloroquine. The fact that some stimuli still caused scratching suggested to the scientists that MrgA3 cells are not the only ones in the body that respond to itch. "We were convinced that MrgA3 cells are responsible for much of the sensation of itch, but it wasn't yet clear whether MrgA3 cells could also relay painful information," says Dong.

In their final experiments, the scientists used genetic techniques to create mice in which the MrgA3 cells were the only cells in the body capable of responding to capsaicin, that peppery pain-inducing substance. When injected into the cheeks of mice, normal mice massage the area with their forepaws to relieve the hot sensation. When injected into the experimental mice, they vigorously scratched their cheeks with their hind legs, suggesting that this normally painful stimulus had been communicated to the brain by MrgA3 cells as itchiness.

"Now that we have disentangled these itchy sensations from painful ones, we should be able to design drugs that target itch-specific nerve cells to combat chronic itchiness," says Dong. "We hope that this will not only provide relief, but also increase people's faithfulness to their drug plans, particularly for deadly diseases like malaria and cancer."


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Contact: Catherine Kolf
ckolf@jhmi.edu
443-287-2251
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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