Why do We Itch?

Every human being has felt the urge to scratch thousands of times during the course of his life. But the science behind itching remains unclear. According to Zhou-Feng Chen, a neuroscientist from the Washington University of St. Louis, “why we can’t stop scratching remains a big puzzle for researchers.”
Minor itching is tolerable but there are cases when it can cause distress. Too much itching can lead to devastating results and a loss of quality of life.

Fortunately, there is hope. Recently, the “itchy” gene has been discovered and developing a drug that can block this gene can relieve some symptoms.
Pruritus (scientific name for itching) specialist distinguished two types of itch: the mild form and the severe form. Mild itching can easily be treated with topical antihistamines while the severe type is not so easy to cure. Right now, there is no known cure for this type of itching. It is estimated that 10% of people from all over the world suffer from chronic itching.

The gene identified by researchers is known as GRPR short for gastrin-releasing peptide receptor. In an experiment, the said gene was injected in laboratory mice. Its’ reaction? They “scratched like crazy”. The discovery of the GRPR is certainly a very important finding because it will help chronic scratchers improve their overall quality of life.

There are many other benefits of this discover of this gene, not all of them are itch-related. This is because according to neuroscientist, itching is closely related to pain. Though they are different, the nerves that carry pain and itching traverse in closely spaced areas from the spinal column to the brain. People suffering from various disorders can be helped if a cure for itching is created.

Despite all the resources available though, there is still something that puzzles scientist. They continue to wonder why itching can be relieved by scratching the skin. Some theories say that scratching might be preventing certain neurons found in the spinal column from sending signals to the brain. If this theory is true, then the supposedly itchy skin might still be problematic but through scratching, you are somehow able to relieve the irritating sensation.

Whatever the case, itching will certainly remain a part of life. People will not feel normal if the itching sensation is eliminated altogether. After all, like pleasure, pain, and pressure, itching is one of the things that make a person human.

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