Washington: Scientists have discovered a new antibody that simultaneously blocks the sensations of pain and itching in studies with mice.
According to the researchers of Duke University, the new antibody works by targeting the voltage-sensitive sodium channels in the cell membrane of neurons.
The scientists said that voltage- sensitive sodium channels control the flow of sodium ions through the neuron's membrane and theses channels open and close by responding to the electric current or action potential of the cells, and that one particular type of sodium channel, called the Nav1.7 subtype, is responsible for sensing pain.
The research team first tested the antibody in cultured cells engineered to express the Nav1.7 sodium channel and found that the antibody can bind to the channel and stabilize its closed state.
Seok-Yong Lee, assistant professor of biochemistry in the Duke University Medical School, said that he was originally interested in isolating these sodium channels from cells to study their structure, but they he thought of making an antibody that interferes with the channel function.
The study found that the antibody can also relieve acute and chronic itch in mouse models, making them the first to discover the role of Nav1.7 in transmitting the itch sensation.
Lee added that they now have a compound that can potentially treat both pain and itch at the same time and hope that their discovery will garner interest from pharmaceutical companies that can help us expand our studies into clinical trials.
The study was published online in Cell.