imOmics in Action

Revolutionary research on ionic and molecular fluxes and its real-world applications

Science: The itch that cannot be scratched

Feeling an itch on your skin is usually nothing to worry about, but some conditions like shingles/chicken pox cause constant itching that cannot be satisfied, causing people to scratch themselves to a point of injury. This week, scientists explored the neural pathways that cause this chronic itch, and in this post, we will explore the many different indicators NMT could measure to further this research.

The Paper

A study published in Science this week by Di Mu and Yan-Gang Sun's laboratory at the Chinese Academy of Sciences explored the neural network of itching and scratching. They wanted to know what neurons were responsible for processing itching, from the spinal cord to the brain.

Using mouse subjects, the scientists found that the spinoparabrachial pathway was activated during itch processing. In this pathway, spinal neurons are connected to the parabrachial nucleus in the brain via glutamate-producing neurons. They found that blocking the synaptic output of glutamate in these neurons suppressed scratching behavior in the mice.

Discovering which neurons are involved in the itch pathway is a big step towards understanding why people get chronic itch. More research on this subject could lead to a real treatment for people who suffer from this condition.

NMT Connection

It is known that ions such as Na+, K+, Cl-, and Ca2+, are necessary for neurons to fire. NMT has been used to study all of these ions, such as in "Measuring Ca2+ influxes of TRPC1-dependent Ca2+ channels..." (World J Gastroentero, 2009) in which researchers used NMT to measure calcium flux in liver cells. Perhaps a future study could use NMT to measure the flux of any of these ions in the parabrachial nucleus, and the change in flux could reveal information about reactions to itch stimuli.

In addition, creative researchers may be interested to know that NMT has also successfully measured glutamate, which we now know is a crucial neurotransmitter in the itch signaling pathway. In "A self-referencing glutamate biosensor…" (J Neurosci Methods, 2010), researchers used NMT to measure glutamate flux in neurons. While glutamate sensors are not yet fully commercialized, YoungerUSA would be happy to work with the most ambitious scientists to measure glutamate flux for researching this exciting new itch processing pathway.

It seems we are always discovering new things about the human body and how it works, and new technology helps to keep up with our interests. Learning more about the spinoparabrachial pathway and the ions and molecules involved will lead us to new and better understanding of itch processing, and will hopefully lead to treatments.

For more NMT connections, see NMT Publications:


D Mu, J Deng, et al. A central neural circuit for itch sensation. Science, 2017 Vol. 357, I. 6352, 695-699

Zhang Z. Y., Wang W. J., Pan L. J., Xu Y. & Zhang Z. M. Measuring Ca2+ influxes of TRPC1-dependent Ca2+ channels in HL-7702 cells with Non-invasive Micro-test Technique. World J. Gastroentero. 2009. 15, 4150–4155

McLamore ES, et al. A self-referencing glutamate biosensor for measuring real time neuronal glutamate flux. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 2010;189:14–22.

(Picture from Web)

Learn more about NMT:Non-invasive Micro-test Techn...
The Theory behind NMT


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