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Put away the aftersun: scientists may have found an end to sunburn pain

The sore, red and sometimes itchy skin that we get from too many rays is caused by a molecule called TRPV4, blocking it will block pain.

Image: Sunburn via Shutterstock

YOU CAN PUT away the aloe vera and natural yogurts as scientists believe they may have discovered an end to sunburn pain as we know it.

The sore, red and sometimes itchy skin that we get from too many rays is caused by a molecule called TRPV4, which is found in the skin’s epidermis.

Blocking this can protect against the painful effects of sunburn and possibly several other causes of pain.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was conducted on mice and human skin samples.

“We have uncovered a novel explanation for why sunburn hurts,” said Wolfgang Liedtke, one of the senior authors of the study and associate professor of neurology and neurobiology at Duke University School of Medicine. “If we understand sunburn better, we can understand pain better.”

The vast majority of sunburns are caused by UVB radiation, which usually does the body good by giving a daily dose of vitamin D, but if people get too much it can damage increase the risk of skin cancer.

The experiment

Scientists took mutant mice and their normal counterparts and exposed their hind paws — which most resemble human skin — to UVB rays. The hind paws of the normal mice became hypersensitive and blistered in response to the exposure, while those of the mutant mice showed little sensitisation and tissue injury.

Next, the scientists applied endothelin (known to cause pain in humans and also evokes itching) to the paws of the mice in a solution of alcohol and glycerol. Treated mice were mostly resistant to pain while and skin-disrupting effects of sunburn.

The researchers say more work is needed and they will need to adapt TRPV4 blockers to make them more suitable for topical application.

Read: Irish man gets boyband themed sunburn>

More: 9 people who had their weekend ruined by sunburn>

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About the author:

Amy Croffey

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