Science-- there's something for everyone

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hidden Skin Sensory System

Skin is our largest organ.  Among its many duties is the housing of specific nerve endings that detect temperature, different types of physical sensations (vibrations, pressure, etc.) and pain. 
Now Frank Rice of Albany Medical College and his colleagues have discovered a new sensory system located in our blood vessels and sweat glands.
This sensory system was discovered by studying patients with congenital insensitivity to pain.  Two such patients were found, who, although lacking all nerve endings normally associated with skin sensation, were still able to detect cold and textures.  How was this possible?
The team found sensory nerve endings on the small blood vessels and sweat glands within skin.  They hypothesized that under normal conditions, these nerve endings contribute little compared to the more prominent nerves in the skin.  However, in cases where there are no such nerves, this sensory system can become perceptible.
The scientists also suspect that this newly discovered sensory system might be involved in mysterious and chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and migraines. If so, treatment plans should account for this possibility.