neurons itch sensation npr1 small molecules screening drugs
Image of the Day: Itch to Scratch

Image of the Day: Itch to Scratch

Blocking a key receptor in itch-detecting neurons could quell chronic conditions.

Nicoletta Lanese
Jul 17, 2019

ABOVE: Mouse sensory nerves involved in itch detection (green) clustered among those that detect pain, temperature and other stimuli (magenta).

In a new study, scientists screened more than 86,000 small molecules to spot a few capable of blocking a critical receptor for itchy sensations, Npr1. The receptor is expressed in both human and mouse sensory neurons alongside the spinal cord, and may contribute to chronic conditions like eczema and psoriasis, the researchers reported July 10 in Science Translational Medicine. We wanted to show that by pharmacologically blocking the target receptor, the approach could be successful in finding a drug to treat chronic itch,” says study coauthor James Inglese of NCATS in a press release. The authors plan to investigate exactly how their candidate compounds block Npr1, and eventually, whether they can be modified for clinical use.

H. Solinski, et al., “Inhibition of natriuretic peptide receptor 1 reduces itch in mice,” Sci Transl Med11:eaav5464, 2019.

Nicoletta Lanese is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at