How gentle touch can turn painful after injury

November 2018

General Practitioners

Country of origin: USA

Ever wonder why things that normally feel gentle, like putting on soft shirts, are painful after a sunburn? The skin’s reaction to injury and inflammation can make a normally gentle feeling touch turn painful. This is called tactile allodynia.

PIEZO2 is a “mechanosensitive protein” that responds to mechanical pressure, like pressing your hand against a table. The protein transmits information about touch by sending signals through nerves in the skin to the brain. In previous work, a team led by Drs. Alexander T. Chesler and Carsten Bonnemann at NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) showed that two patients with mutations in the PIEZO2 gene were unable to feel vibrations and were less sensitive to certain forms of gentle touch. They also lacked a “sixth sense” called proprioception, which determines how your body is positioned in space.

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