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In the past 10 years specific pathways for pruritus have been characterized on a cellular and molecular level but their exact role in the pathophysiology of neuropathic pruritus remains unclear. This also applies to the question which of the competing theories for pruritus, e.g. specificity, temporal/spatial pattern or intensity, would best apply. While experimental trials on mice have mostly confirmed the theory of specificity, the results on humans indicate a role of spatial and temporal patterns. The skin innervation is greatly reduced by the neuropathy and could provide a "spatial contrast pattern" and the axotomy could induce a de novo expression of gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) in primarily afferent nociceptors and thus modulate spinal pruritus processing. In addition, the overlap of pruritus and pain in neuropathy patients complicates the direct translation from animal experiments and requires collaboration at the clinical level between pain medicine and dermatology.


Sonja Ständer, Martin Schmelz. Neuropathic pruritus]. Schmerz (Berlin, Germany). 2020 Dec;34(6):525-535

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PMID: 33025226

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