This conference brings together researchers and clinicians from academia, advocacy and industry, who have a shared interest in understanding the basic mechanisms of itch, its impact on people, and how it should best be managed.
The aims of the conference are to educate, mentor and push the field forward. The last five years has led to a scientific revolution in the understanding of itch and its importance. Many of these advances have resulted from pain researchers directing their expertise to the nascent field of itch, which is closely related to pain. Itch is no longer considered a minor nuisance that can be treated with anti-histamines. Investigators from the fields of neuroscience, neuroimaging, cutaneous biology and broadly across medicine are collaborating. To list but a few examples of research progress, this synergy has resulted in the determination that itch and pain have equal, and negative, effects on quality of life measures, that distinct but overlapping populations of sensory neurons mediate itch from different stimuli, that histamine-independent itch drives most itches, the identification transient receptor potential (TRP) channels and mas-related G-protein coupled receptors (Mrgprs) in mediating various peripheral itches, the critical role of gastrin releasing peptide (GRP) and its cognate receptor GRPR in transmitting afferent itch in the spinal cord, the identification of B5-I inhibitory neurons in the spinal cord, and the role of VGLUT2 transporters in mediating itch. The capacity of TRP channel inhibitors to treat certain itches is already being evaluated in clinical trials. In March of this year, NIAMS issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement, on the topic of itch broadly. This follows an NIH roundtable on itch in 2010 and itch research being supported by several of the Institutes. The main objective of this conference is not only to describe the current status of the field. It is to push the field forward. It is to bring young investigators together with those at the forefront of this and relate fields in a cohesive interacting environment of approximately 200 people. What started with a handful of people a decade ago will be the 7th World Congress on Itch (WCI). The itch research community is equally split between Asia, Europe and the U.S. The Congress is held every other year on the respective continents. Specific Objectives The specific objectives of the conference are as follows: ?To inform, educate, and drive the field of itch forward ?To identify selective peripheral and central mechanisms for itch ?To critically examine the encoding of itch-selective neuronal pathways, including inhibitory pathways ?To examine the interface between the skin, immune and nervous systems in itch signaling ?To address the challenges in treating itch in skin conditions and systemic diseases ?To discuss potential therapeutic targets and new therapies for itch ?To bring together world leaders in the field while at the same time: ?Cater to junior investigators to learn, present at open sessions and be mentored Accordingly, the conference will address the following principal topics and problems: ?The impact of itch on quality of life in cutaneous and systemic conditions ?Mechanisms-based classification of itch ?Sensory modalities related to itch, including touch ?Itch in HIV, kidney, liver disease and cancer ?Neuropathic itch ?Peripheral signaling of itch versus pain: pruriceptors, nociceptors, A-beta, delta and C-fibers ?Central signaling of itch by the spinothalamic tract and other pathways ?Neuroimaging of itch ?Mediators, channels and receptors in itch ?Cytokine pathways in itch ?Central sensitization of itch ?Animal models of itch, including canines, monkeys and mice

Public Health Relevance

This R13 conference proposal is requesting support for the 7th World Congress on Itch to be held in Boston from September 21 - 23, 2013. This conference brings together clinicians and researchers, from both academia and industry, with a shared interest in understanding the basic mechanisms and management of itch. The aims of the conference are to educate, mentor and push the field forward.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
Conference (R13)
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Study Section
Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Special Grants Review Committee (AMS)
Program Officer
Tseng, Hung H
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Massachusetts General Hospital
United States
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Azimi, Ehsan; Lerner, Ethan A (2014) The 7th World Congress on Itch. J Invest Dermatol 134:1786-8