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Scientists have found a previously unknown organ lurking under the skin, and it may help you feel the pain of a pinprick.
It was previously thought that people perceive the pain of a pinprick via nerve endings that sit right below the outer layer of the skin. Now, a new study suggests that it's not just nerves, but nerves tangled up in special cells that make us flinch.
Time - Kinds - Organs - Skin - Sensation
"We have known for a long time that there are various kinds of sensory organs in the skin, but those that we've been aware of have only been involved in touch sensation," said study senior author Patrik Ernfors, a professor of tissue biology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
This mesh of branched cells and nerves is a newfound "sensory organ" because it responds to external cues and relays that information to the brain. Unlike other known sensory organs under the skin, this one plays a role in pain perception, Ernfors told Live Science.
Techniques - Organs - Lab
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This sensory organ is sensitive to pricks or jabs, and once activated by pressure, the organ sends signals to the brain. The brain then sends signals down to the site of the prick that tells us to feel pain.
Cells - Organ - Schwann - Cells - Look
The cells that make up this organ, called Schwann cells, each look "a little bit like an octopus," with long, tentacle-like protrusions extending into surrounding nerves, Ernfors said. Schwann cells are generally known to surround and insulate nerves.
But to figure out the function of these specific Schwann cells in the skin, researchers tested what happened when they were turned off in mice; to do so, the...
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