An itch switch

Scientists identify a chemical that helps the brain know where to scratch

By Stephen Ornes, 15:28 PM June 5, 2013

Itchy skin sends a signal to your brain. Scientists have now identified a key player in that process.  Credit: iStockphoto

Everyone itches from time to time. Mosquito bites, a brush against poison ivy, chicken pox or even a skin sensitivity to some fabric — all can provoke the desire to scratch. But how the brain knows when and where to scratch has left many scientists scratching their heads. Now scientists at the National Institutes of Health offer a partial answer.

They identified a key player in the itching process. It’s known as Nppb (and stands for natriuretic polypeptide b). Their new tests with mice in...

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