Research Report: Finding may help end itching caused by meds

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.

By Lynne Friedmann

A team of researchers from UCSD School of Medicine and three South Korean institutions has identified two neuronal signaling pathways activated by a topical cream used to treat a variety of skin diseases. One pathway produces therapeutic benefit; the other causes severe itching.

Itching and scratching are part of an imperfectly understood sensory process that includes complex, confounding psychological factors. In fact, just reading or thinking about itching can provoke the reaction. In many cases, the side effect of itching is severe enough to make it impossible to use otherwise effective therapies.

It is hoped the new findings will lead to future drugs that effectively treat targeted conditions while blocking the cellular signals that can lead to problematic itching and scratching. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More information at

Nerves glow in surgery

Accidental damage to thin or buried nerves during surgery can have severe consequences, from chronic pain to permanent paralysis. Scientists at the UCSD School of Medicine may have found a remedy: injectable fluorescent peptides that cause hard-to-see peripheral nerves to glow, alerting surgeons to their location even before the nerves are encountered.

The new study complements earlier work in surgical molecular navigation by a team of researchers that includes UCSD professor Roger Tsien, Ph.D., co-recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on green fluorescent protein.

The findings are published in the online edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology. News release at

Impacts of airborne particles

Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD (SIO) are participating in CalWater, a multiyear project to investigate the possible effects of air pollution on California’s precipitation.

One phase of the study involves five weeks of airborne measurements in the Sierra Nevada and Central Valley to document cloud microphysics and aerosol impacts on clouds and precipitation. The research aircraft is equipped with an aerosol particle analyzer developed at UCSD along with a suite of other state-of-the-art cloud probes and instruments.

About 15 percent of the state’s electricity is generated by hydroelectric sources. The data collected and analyzed from these flights will contribute to better climate projections important to planning for California’s water and energy resources. News release at

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Posted by Staff on Feb 16, 2011. Filed under Columns, Editorial Columns, Health & Science, Research Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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