Scientists connect eczema, genetics
Eczema is a broad term for a range of persistent skin conditions that typically involve inflammation of the outer layer of the skin. The ailment often involves dryness and recurring skin rashes. The ailment also is related to, and sometimes can cause, asthma.
In a study published last month in PLos One, a professional journal, a team of scientists including Arup Indra, an OSU associate professor of pharmacy, found a link between atopic dermatitis and a lack of a protein called Ctip2.
In an interview last week, Indra said that the protein works in two ways in healthy skin: In an earlier study, scientists found that the protein helps to control lipid biosynthesis in the skin, the fats that help keep skin healthy.
The more recent study added a new wrinkle: It found that Ctip2 also works to suppress another protein that can cause inflammation.
In other words: Not only does Ctip2 help to keep skin healthy, it also works to hold at bay another protein that, left unchecked, can cause inflammation of the skin. A genetic flaw with some eczema sufferers means that insufficient quantities of Ctip2 are produced in the skin cells.
To help test their theories, researchers used a system in which Ctip2 was removed from the specific skin cells of laboratory mice, Indra said.
That experimental model also should offer a way to test potential remedies, Indra said, and he noted that the study already has attracted attention from interested parties.
“There is a big option open for looking for new compounds that at least could be effective in mitigating specific atopic dermatitis subtypes,” he said.
And there’s potentially a huge market for better eczema remedies, whether they be as simple as improved topical treatments or even potentially some gene therapies.
Eczema is difficult to treat — in difficult cases, steroid drugs can be prescribed, but they have potent side effects, Indra said — and currently has no cure.
David Stauth of OSU News and Research Communications contributed to this story.