JUL 14, 2019 11:23 AM PDT

Scratching a Chronic Itch

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

There are many potential reasons why skin might itch, but this annoying condition can significantly impact quality of life when it doesn’t go away. Scientists have had difficulty understanding what causes chronic itch, and while there are theories, there isn’t an effective treatment. New work reported in Science Translational Medicine may help change that.

Nerves that stimulate skin are grouped in structures next to the spinal cord. Here, nerves in such a structure -- called a dorsal root ganglion -- that are involved in detecting an itch are labeled green. Nerves involved in sensing pain, temperature and other stimuli are shown in magenta. / Credit: Hans Juergen Solinski, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

In previous work, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) researcher Mark Hoon, Ph.D., and colleagues identified a receptor called Npr1. It was found on nerve cells in mouse spinal cord neurons and binds to a protein that’s been linked to itch. When the Npr1 receptor is bound to the protein, it helps cause the itch sensation. Blocking Npr1 then became a strategy in the search for drugs that can control chronic itch.

to develop drugs from what they identify eventually discover a therapeutic that can block Npr1, and potentially relieve chronic itchiness, researchers at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the NIDCR used a rapid screening technique to assess 86,000 compounds.

Hoon collaborated with NCATS scientist James Inglese, Ph.D., and his team to screen the molecules. They developed a variety of tests in their effort, and along with robot helpers, they narrowed the pool of potential drugs to about 1,400 compounds. Next, they created a new set of assays to identify the best candidates. A subset of fifteen molecules was eventually shown to stop the Npr1 receptor from functioning in both human and mouse cells. Following up in a mouse model, the scientists found that by block ing Npr1, scratching was reduced.

The investigators are continuing to search for more drugs that can stop Npr1 from binding its target and causing itchiness, and want to eventually develop drugs from what they identify.

"This is a proof-of-concept study and an important application of what NCATS does," Inglese said. "We wanted to show that by pharmacologically blocking the target receptor, the approach could be successful in finding a drug to treat chronic itch. Because it can take a long time to develop an ideal compound, the rationale behind the approach needs to be well-vetted."

Learn more about chronic itch from the video above, and why scratching an itch can make it worse from the following video.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via NIH/NCATS, Science Translational Medicine

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 25, 2022
Microbiology
Understanding Oral Microbe Evolution, Which May Aid in the Hunt for Antibiotics
SEP 25, 2022
Understanding Oral Microbe Evolution, Which May Aid in the Hunt for Antibiotics
New research has suggested that bacteria that live in the human mouth could work as model organisms that can help us fin ...
SEP 29, 2022
Cancer
Customer-Led Innovation: Building the CTS Xenon
SEP 29, 2022
Customer-Led Innovation: Building the CTS Xenon
How customers and R&D scientists came together across oceans and a pandemic to create a next-gen cell therapy soluti ...
OCT 23, 2022
Immunology
The Double-Edged Sword of Iron Deficiency
OCT 23, 2022
The Double-Edged Sword of Iron Deficiency
Iron is a crucial nutrient. Most of the iron in the body is contained in red blood cells, as part of hemoglobin, which i ...
OCT 30, 2022
Neuroscience
Why Fear Memories Can Persist in the Brain
OCT 30, 2022
Why Fear Memories Can Persist in the Brain
People have to experience fear so they can learn to avoid dangerous situations. But some memories can be more persistent ...
NOV 08, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Blood Pressure Drug May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk in Black People
NOV 08, 2022
Blood Pressure Drug May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk in Black People
Telmisartan, a blood pressure-lowering medication, may help prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease (AD) in Black indiv ...
NOV 17, 2022
Plants & Animals
Creating living cells from dead Sumatran rhinoceros' tissue
NOV 17, 2022
Creating living cells from dead Sumatran rhinoceros' tissue
The Sumatran rhinoceros are considered a critically endangered species, with an estimated 80 or fewer Sumatran rhinos al ...
Loading Comments...