A mysterious source of itchiness has been found. Certain nerve cells are specialized to detect itchy sensations, and those receptors don't detect painful sensations, according to a new study.
The finding, published Dec. 23 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, helps resolve a long-standing debate over whether itchiness is just a weird form of pain. Additionally, now that they have pinpointed the responsible nerve fibers, researchers could silence those nerves to develop better anti-itch treatments, said Ethan Lerner, a Neuroscientist at Harvard University who was not involved in the study.
"This is a very convincing piece of work," Lerner told LiveScience. Scientists "can perhaps target this particular type of nerve as a means of treating itch, but still allow you to experience the protective aspect of pain."