Pain Molecule Discovery Could End the Agony of Sunburns

Researchers have identified a molecule that mediates the pain of a sunburn. The discovery could also lead to treatments for arthritis and tendonitis.

It's summer! Time to get some sun. And, unless you're really diligent about sunscreen, maybe a sunburn or two.

But the pain of the sunburn may be a thing of the past before too long. Researchers at Kings College London used ultraviolet-B radiation to create sunburns on small patches of skin on both human and rat subjects. They then investigated the affected skin to see what molecules were involved in the response. In both species, there was a preponderance of a protein called CXCL5 in the burned skin. To make sure that this molecule was causing the inflammatory pain of the sunburn, they injected it into healthy rats. Sure enough, they experienced pain—and were relieved by an antibody that neutralizes CXCL5.

A similar inflammatory pain is also caused by arthritis and tendonitis, among other conditions. The researchers hope that these discoveries can lead to treatments that make those ailments easier to live with. And who knows? They might also lead to a better alternative to aloe. But for this weekend remember to wear your sunscreen.

You can read about the research and watch Professor Steve McMahon talk about the study here.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Kelly Sue