Decoding the itch that needs scratching

Researchers hope to find a drug or cream that’s better for the skin than using your nails

Eczema sufferers take heart: scientists at the University of Minnesota have taken a big step toward providing you relief by figuring out how scratching relieves itchiness. The researchers say they’ve identified the neural pathway that sends itching signals to the brain—one that scratching temporarily disrupts by blocking activity in certain spinal cord nerve cells. This offers hope that scientists can reproduce that scratching effect with something that doesn’t damage the skin—a drug, say, or an ointment. That would be an enormous boon to victims of chronic skin conditions like eczema, for whom scratching provides about 40 seconds of relief but turns itchy sites into full-on sores. The challenge now, say scientists, is to figure out the chemistry of the scratching effect.

BBC News

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