July 6, 2011 -- It may come as cold comfort to those already suffering from the sting of a midsummer sunburn, but researchers have found a new clue that may help explain why sunburns are so painful.
Their study shows UVB irradiation targets a particular protein in the body called CXCL5 that plays a role in pain sensitivity. Overexposure to the sun causes the protein to be overexpressed and triggers the pain and inflammation associated with sunburn.
"These findings have shown for the first time the important role of this particular molecule in controlling pain from exposure to UVB irradiation," says researcher Steve McMahon, from the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases at King's College, in London, in a news release.
"But this study isn't just about sunburn -- we hope that we have identified a potential target which can be utilized to understand more about pain in other inflammatory conditions like arthritis and cystitis," says McMahon.