The biology of itching and the biology of pain are intertwined in interesting ways, writes graduate student and science blogger Aatish Bhatia. Understanding itching can help us better understand how to treat pain. I'd not seen Bhatia's blog before, but I'm really liking his style. He does a great job of breaking down the science in a clear way.
... In the last decade, researchers have learned about receptors in the nerves under our skin that react specifically to itchy substances. When these receptors fire, they send a signal racing up our spinal cord, headed to our brain where it creates an urge to scratch. Scientists now have a basic map of the roads that an itch takes on its way to our brain. And they have even been able to block some of these roads in mice, essentially preventing them from feeling an itch.
...The picture that is emerging is a complex one, where pain and itch signals are distinct yet subtly intertwined. Of the nerve cells under our skin, some are involved only in signalling pain, and they have pain receptors. Others are responsible for signalling different types of itches, and they have both itch and pain receptors. If the same cell has both receptors, how do we distinguish itch from ouch?
... As the biology of itching becomes better understood, the benefits are making their way from the lab to the clinic. The drug morphine is a powerful painkiller, but has a common side effect of itchiness. Women taking opiates to relieve their labour pain often experience a similar side effect. Zhou-Feng Chen and Yan-Gang Sun, authors of the GRPR receptor study, teamed up with colleagues at the newly founded Center for the Study of Itch and managed to tackle this problem. Their results, published in the current issue of the journal Cell, show that the benefits of morphine can be separated from the itch.
Via Greg Laden
Image: llama itch, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from davedehetre's photostream
A key challenge in building colonies on the moon is that it’s incredibly expensive to transport construction materials to space from Earth. That’s why researchers are exploring how moon bases could be mostly constructed from raw materials already there. A team of scientists working with the European Space Agency (ESA) are exploring how urine could […]
The new Mars rover Perseverance, set to launch in July for a February 2021 landing, will be outfitted with its own small helicopter. NASA engineers at Kennedy Space Station recently put the chopper through its paces, marking the last time they’ll spin it up before landing on the red planet. From Kennedy Space Center: The […]
American drug maker Johnson & Johnson said Monday it plans to begin the human testing phase of its experimental coronavirus vaccine by September 2020, with plans to make it available for emergency use in early 2021.
If you’re routinely prone to being stressed out, hurried or generally made out-of-sorts by the hectic pace of the world and life changes, then…yikes. We don’t envy what you must be going through these days. Right about now, even the most zen and centered among us are bound to be feeling some level of anxiety […]
So…exactly how many times a day are you singing Happy Birthday to your sink? Unless you’re among the most germaphobic among us, it’s unlikely you ever thought the simple act of handwashing would start to take on such a central role in our daily lives. Of course, with all the touching and such, bar soap […]
Paralysis by analysis. It’s the phenomenon that happens when you’re so stuck on thinking through all the ramifications of your actions that you don’t actually take action in the first place. That can happen with all this free time you’re spending stuck inside your house. With literally every home-bound option available to you, it’s easy […]