This Study May Help Us Stop Itching Someday

Scientists find nerve cells devoted to making mice scratch
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2013 2:17 PM CDT
Updated Apr 27, 2013 7:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Next time you're scratching an itch, don't blame the mosquito, the bedbug, the poison ivy, or whatever else caused it. Instead, turn your ire on MrgprA3. As Scientific American explains, that's the name of a newly discovered nerve receptor that apparently has one job—to make us itch. Or at least to make mice itch. When Johns Hopkins researchers turned off the receptors in mice and then exposed them to itchy stuff, the mice did not scratch.

"Our current study has shown experimentally for the first time the existence of itch-specific nerves," says one of the researchers. Assuming this is found to apply to humans as well, the Baltimore Sun notes a big potential upside: Some life-saving drugs have a side effect of chronic itching, so much so that people stop taking them. The finding raises the possibility of developing drugs to block the itch receptors. (Read more itch stories.)

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