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Itch Molecule

May 30, 2013

Researchers have identified a molecule that’s essential for itching.



The origins of itch. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have identified a key molecule that causes itching. According to molecular biologist Mark Hoon, the molecule is a small, well-known neuropeptide called Nppb.

MARK HOON (National Institutes of Health):

And if you take that molecule away, you get no itch. And if you inject it into the right place, you get itch. And that was the big discovery.

The molecule was originally discovered in the blood, as part of a system that regulates sodium levels. Hoon’s team found that it also acts within the spinal cord, allowing itch receptor cells all over the body to communicate with the brain. Now that it’s been found out, researchers may be able to develop new treatments for chronic itching conditions, like eczema and psoriasis. The work appears in the journal Science. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

(Jupiter Images)