The researchers exposed small patches of skin on rat's paws and the forearms of ten human participants to UVB radiation, the ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn.
When the sunburn was at its most painful, two days later, the researchers took tiny samples of the sunburned skin. They found high levels of CXCL5, a protein that summons immune cells to injured tissue as part of the body’s inflammatory response.
To determine whether high CXCL5 levels were responsible for the skin’s sensitivity—since no previous studies had specifically linked the protein to pain—the scientists injected rats that hadn’t been exposed to UV rays with CXCL5. Sure enough, these rats showed about the same sensitivity to pain as sunburned rats did.
Since this pain pathway is a part of the body’s inflammatory response, the researchers hope that better understanding of it could lead to new analgesics for other painful inflammatory conditions, including arthritis and cystitis. Read the research report here