OCT 17, 2019 10:12 AM PDT

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Gut Pain is Traced Back to Itch Receptors

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

It’s estimated that eleven percent of people around the world suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a term for a group of disorders that cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and constipation. Treatments aim to relieve symptoms, and approaches include changes in diet, probiotics, and medications. Now scientists have learned more about how IBS is caused, which can aid in the development of therapeutics that target the origin of the problem.

Reporting in JCI Insight, researchers have identified nervous system receptors that can activate neurons and cause a painful feeling of itchy gut, often described by IBS patients. There also seems to be more of these ‘itch’ receptors in those with IBS compared to healthy individuals; it offers more chances for them to activate neurons and can create more pain.

"We found receptors which bring about an itchy feeling on skin also do the same in the gut, so these patients are essentially suffering from a 'gut itch.' We've translated these results to human tissue tests and now hope to help create a treatment where people can take an oral medication for IBS," said Professor Stuart Brierley, NHMRC and Matthew Flinders Research Fellow in Gastrointestinal Neuroscience.

"Patients with IBS suffer from chronic abdominal pain and experience rewiring of their nervous system so they feel pain when they shouldn't. We decided to ask important questions about how nerves in the gut are activated to cause pain in order to seek out potential solutions," Brierley added.

IBS patients experience pain when the itch receptors work with another kind of receptor in the nervous system that are known as ‘wasabi’ receptors; they react to the consumption of the spicy Japanese condiment.

"If you think about what happens when you eat wasabi, it activates a receptor on the nerves and sends a pain signal; that's exactly what's happening within in their gut as they experience an itchy effect or wasabi effect in the gut," explained Brierly, who is also the Director of the Visceral Pain Research Group at SAHMRI.

"Having shown these mechanisms contribute to chronic gut pain, we can now work out ways to block these receptors and thereby stop the gut itch signal traveling from the gut to the brain. This will be a far better solution [than] the problems currently presented by opioid treatments."

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Flinders University, JCI Insight

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 29, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 29, 2019
A Molecular Switch for Modulating Gene Therapy Doses
  Genetic errors cause many different kinds of diseases, and gene therapy has aimed to relieve those symptoms by addressing the root cause....
DEC 29, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 29, 2019
Diet Rapidly Influences Sperm Quality
While it's known that environmental factors influence the quality of sperm, researchers have found that diet can have a rapid impact on sperm....
DEC 28, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 28, 2019
Consider Skipping The Post-Workout Ice Bath
In an effort to get heart-healthy, many people have experienced the painful after-effects of an intense workout. Weather cardiovascular or strength trainin...
JAN 27, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 27, 2020
The 3D Ultrastructure of a Cell is Revealed
Seeing what's going on inside of cells presents many challenges that advances in microscopy have tried to address....
FEB 04, 2020
Immunology
FEB 04, 2020
The Gut Deploys Protective Mechanisms in Coordination with Your Mealtime Habits
At mealtime, every mouthful of food contains a possible risk of incoming pathogens to the digestive system. The gut takes protective measures to account fo...
FEB 25, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 25, 2020
Relieving Preeclampsia With an Antioxidant Found in Mushrooms
Preeclampsia usually arises after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women that typically have normal blood pressure. It can be fatal to the mother and baby if left untreated....
Loading Comments...