Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Itch

Itching is such a constant thing in my life, has been for as long as I can remember. I always find myself really amazed when my skin is calm and I cannot feel a tickle or prickle or tingly sensation anywhere on my body. I will constantly identify my spots that I can feel.... for example at the moment my whole lower back feels like a cat with prickly fur is slightly rubbing against me and my hands are being tingly and annoying, also a little spot behind my left ear... Its just something I've learnt to live with and I must say it does get frustrating and gives me mild anxious feelings. This is probably the reason I have such high stress levels.

If I get tired I get stressed which means I get itchy...
If I get hungry I get stressed which means I get itchy...
If I'm just stressed in general I'm just generally itchy....

So this brings me to the reason for writing this post.

I've been thinking. If there was only a way to turn off the itch in your brain. Imagine that!! Being able to go through topical steroid withdrawal without itching.. which in turn would mean no swelling, no ooze, no cuts and scrapes, no crustiness, no skin flaking off every where from healing after crazy scratch-fests!! 

Don't get me wrong.. I imagine that you would still get the serious red skin from your blood vessels healing, insomnia from your adrenals healing and nerve pain from your nerves healing. But it would get rid of half of the TSW issues!

In searching this particular topic on the web I came across this one article. Don't get me wrong again...  I do not in any way endorse animal testing of any kind. I just found some of the following information was quite interesting.

Scientists have been able to identify the molecule that signals our brain to start scratching us raw—and removing it kills itchiness forever.

The molecular geneticists in question, Santosh Mishra and Mark Hoon of the National Institutes of Health, began by examining the neurotransmitter chemicals in our spinal column that pass along sensory information such as heat, pain, and yes, itchiness.

The true test came when the pair created genetically engineered mice that couldn't produce the Nppb transmitter. First they tested to see if the super-mice were still able to feel other sensations such as heat and pain, to which they all responded normally. So the removal didn't affect their response to other stimuli. Then, out came the itch-triggers (such as histamine). While the normal mice immediately started scratching themselves, the engineered mice remained calm and undoubtedly itch free. 

Until the scientists re-injected them with Nppb, that is, at which point all bets were off.

Next, they were able to identify a specific type of neuron in the mice's spines with receptors called natriuretic peptide receptor A (Npra), which seemed like a likely candidate to accept Nppb. And sure enough, once the Npra was removed from normal mice, they appeared totally impervious to any itching whatsoever. What's more, they were still able to feel other sensations, so lacking this neuron wouldn't affect their sense of pain or touch.

And even though these tests were performed on mice instead of humans, we share incredibly similar nervous systems with our more rodent-oriented friends. So at the very least, this gives us a far greater understanding of our own itch reflex. But it could also very likely lead to solutions for people who produce an excess of Nppb and help make stronger, more effective itch treatments—or perhaps even total cures.

It's not going to be totally smooth sailing, though. Nppb is significant not just for the sensory nuisance it causes but also for its ability to help regulate blood circulation and pressure. Which means shutting it off entirely might present a bit of a problem. In general, there's still a lot that we don't understand about itching and its evolutionary benefits, but our potential newfound ability to turn it on and off is certainly an incredible first step. 

Written by Ashley Feinberg on Gizmodo - (minus a few sections I didn't want to include)

Great news, right? Removing that gene or the pathway it travels from people could stop the very same itching that gives those going through TSW hell.

Unfortunately Nppb has a much broader role in the body, including the heart, kidneys and several other organs, so permanently removing it could lead to a variety of health problems... makes me wonder though if its possible to turn it off like a tap that just needs to be shut off for 6 months to a year and then turned back on once the body is healed...

Well, even though identifying the gene that causes itching doesn't cure itching, it does give a few clues as to how it could possibly be treated in the future.... Maybe like on one of those futuristic movies where everyone lives in space. I don't even know if I'm being sarcastic or serious.

I think if I ever found out that they were doing this on people, I think I would seriously consider putting my had up. Thats a scary though.

Oh well enough on that topic. Its dinner time!

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