Although many of you are probably already aware of the chronic skin condition that is eczema, you may be interested to know that scientists have finally discovered what actually happens to the skin when you have this condition.
Eczema, which is also referred to as atopic dermatitis, is the most common form of the condition and it is closely related to asthma and allergic rhinitis.
It affects up to 20% of children and 3% of adults worldwide, and although there are several creams and ointments out there to help relieve the itch, there’s not an end-all cure that will make it go away yet.
Despite this fact, Scientists are now closer to pinpointing a bunch of processes that occur when someone has eczema and this information could help us to finally figure out how to cure this chronic skin condition.
For the past decade, it has been known that eczema is associated with the lack of filaggrin, usually due to genetics.
This protein is used to help shape the skin cells as well as doing an important job of creating the skin’s barrier function.
If someone happens to be born without this important protein, it can result in skin problems such as eczema, or ichthyosis vulgaris, on which the skin doesn’t shed properly. This results in dead skin that piles up like fish scales.
This is the first time that Scientists have been able to figure out exactly how eczema develops when filaggrin is lacking.
Scientists at Newcastle University in the UK partnered with GSK Stiefel in order to figure out the series of proteins and pathways involved that can trigger eczema.
‘We have shown for the first time that loss of the filaggrin protein alone is sufficient to alter key proteins and pathways involved in triggering eczema,’ lead researcher Nick Reynolds of Newcastle University said.
In order to discover these mechanisms, the team actually created a 3-dimensional living skin equivalent (LSE) model.
Next, they altered the top layer of the LSE so that it would become filaggrin-deficient, similar to those people who suffer from this genetic mutation.
They found that when the skin is lacking filaggrin it’s enough to alter the molecular model of the skin.
This can lead to things like affected cell structure, barrier function, and how the cells can become inflamed and respond to stress.
‘Notably, for the first time, we have identified 17 proteins that are significantly differentially expressed after [filaggrin removal] in LSE cultures,’ the team wrote.
The next step was to verify their findings and compare them with actual humans. Results from healthy skin and those who have eczema were analyzed.
After this study, they found that many of the proteins they discovered were altered in the same way as only those with eczema. Much like the lab model had shown.
Although they haven’t exactly found a cure for it yet, this is definitely a promising step in the right direction.
As soon as scientists can discover what happens in the skin when you’re lacking filaggrin they should be able to develop medications to stop this from happening.
Perhaps in a few years, nobody will have to suffer from the chronic and terribly itchy skin condition!