A group of cells in the spine that transmit itch messages to the brain have been identified by U.S. researchers, who said the findings may lead to better treatments for chronic itching.
When this group of cells was turned off in mice, it lessened their itchiness without reducing their ability to sense pain, the Associated Press reported.
The researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are the first to identify itch-transmitting cells in the spinal cord. The study appears in this week's issue of Science.
The results are "exciting" and "opens the field," itch specialist Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, told the AP. He wasn't involved in the study.
Serious, chronic itching can be caused by conditions such as cancer, chronic kidney failure and the use of certain types of narcotic painkillers.