The end of sunburn pain?
Chances are that at least once this summer you’ve wished that someone would invent a way to prevent sunburn pain. Now scientists at Duke University may have taken a big step towards making that a reality. They’ve found that the painful, red skin of a sunburn is caused by a molecule abundant in the skin, and that by blocking the molecule – known as TRPV4 – they may be able to stop the burn’s painful effects.
The vast majority of sunburns are caused by ultraviolet B radiation. In moderation, this part of sunlight provides the body with a dose of vitamin D and can improve a person’s mood. But getting too much sun can damage the DNA in skin cells, which not only is painful, but also can increase a person's susceptibility to cancer.
The researchers, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition, said that mice whose skin had been altered to block the molecule showed little sensitivity or tissue damage after ultraviolet B exposure, while normal mice exhibited hypersensitivity and blistering. Further studies showed that ultraviolet B rays caused calcium to flow to skin cells, but only when TRPV4 was active. After a pharmaceutical compound called GSK205 was applied to their paws, mice appeared to be largely resistant to sunburn pain and skin damage.
The scientists noted that more research is needed to determine how blocking the molecule may affect other processes that keep skin healthy.