The Itch Molecule

Photo: Zombie Back Scratcher from the NeatoShop

Itchy? Blame the neurotransmitter Nppb!

Santosh Mishra and Mark Hoon of the National Institute of Health have answered the question you've been itching to ask:

To test whether Nppd played a role in the itching, they genetically engineered some mice so that they failed to produce the chemical. Initially, they checked to see if these engineered mice were impervious to other types of sensations also conveyed by these neurons (pain, movement and heat), but they seemed to behave just the same as the normal mice, indicating Nppb wasn’t involved in the transmission of those stimuli.

Then, they exposed them once again to the itch-inducing chemicals. The normal mice scratched away, but the genetically engineered mice were another story. “It was amazing to watch,” Mishra said in a press statement. “Nothing happened. The mice wouldn’t scratch.”

Joseph Stromberg of Smithsonian's Surprising Science blog explains: Link

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