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J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2011 Jun;9(6):456-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1610-0387.2011.07585.x. Epub 2011 Jan 5.

Pathogenesis of pruritus.

[Article in English, German]

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Competence Center Chronic Pruritus, Department of Dermatology, University of Münster, Germany.


The pathogenesis of acute and chronic (> 6 weeks duration) pruritus is complex and involves in the skin a network of resident cells (e. g., mast cells, keratinocytes, sensory neurons) and transient inflammatory cells (e. g., eosinophils). Though pruritus and pain show overlapping mechanisms, recent studies have provided evidence that pruritus and pain pathogenesis differ in important points. In the skin, the sensory C-nerve fibers have been investigated intensively. Several classes of histamine-sensitive or histamine-insensitve C-fibers have been described. Epidermal and dermal sensory nerve fibres are now assumed to be of major importance in pruritus induction. They interact with keratinocytes, inflammatory cells such as T lymphocytes, eosinophils and basophils which have been shown to release multiple pruritogenic mediators (e.g., nerve growth factor, interleukin-31) which lead to activation, sensitization and sprouting of skin nerves. Specific receptors have been discovered on cutaneous and spinal neurons to be exclusively involved in the processing of pruritic signals. Just recently, the gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR) was identified on spinal neurons that are crucially involved in pruritus but not pain processing. Chronic pruritus is notoriously difficult to treat. Newer insights into the underlying pathogenesis of pruritus have enabled novel treatment approaches that target the pruritus-specific pathophysiological mechanism. For example, kappa-opioid receptor agonists and neurokinin-1 antagonists have been found to relieve chronic pruritus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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