Stopping the itch—new clues into how to treat eczema

October 11, 2012

More than 15% of children suffer with eczema, or atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin disease that in some cases can be debilitating and disfiguring. Researchers reporting in the October issue of Immunity have discovered a potential new target for the condition, demonstrating that by blocking it, they can lessen the disease in mice.

In eczema, immune T cells invade the skin and secrete factors that drive an , making the skin itch. Dr. Raif Geha, of Boston Children's Hospital, and his collaborators now show that scratching the skin precipitates the condition by encouraging an influx of other called neutrophils. These neutrophils secrete a lipid called leukotriene B4 that calls in more neutrophils, and more importantly, potent immune T cells that are the hallmark of eczema. These cells cause inflammation that aggravates the skin further. The investigators suspected that blocking the onslaught of these cells might slow down the disease or even stop it in its tracks.

Furthermore, Dr. Geha and his colleagues wondered whether the production of leukotriene B4 served to recruit to the site of mechanical insult. And indeed that was the case. "We showed that a drug that blocks the production of leukotriene B4 blocks the development of inflammation in a mouse model of eczema," says Dr. Geha. His team also found that deleting the receptors on immune cells that bind to leukotriene B4 had a similar effect.

"Our findings suggest that neutrophils play a key role in allergic and that blockade of leukotriene B4 and its receptor might provide a new therapy for eczema," says first author Dr. Michiko Oyoshi.

Most people get eczema as infants, and they tend to outgrow it by adolescence; however some people continue to experience "flare-ups" of an itchy rash on and off throughout life. Some develop these after coming into contact with particular substances, such as specific soaps, or in response to certain conditions, such as a respiratory infection or cold.

Explore further: Smoke exposure late in pregnancy might boost baby's eczema risk

More information: Oyoshi et al.: "Leukotriene B4 driven neutrophil recruitment to the skin is essential for allergic skin inflammation." DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2012.06.018

Related Stories

Smoke exposure late in pregnancy might boost baby's eczema risk

March 3, 2012
(HealthDay) -- A mother's exposure to tobacco smoke during the last three months of pregnancy may increase the risk that her child will develop the allergic skin condition eczema during infancy, a new study suggests.

Closer to a cure for eczema

November 23, 2011
Scientists have found that a strain of yeast implicated in inflammatory skin conditions, including eczema, can be killed by certain peptides and could potentially provide a new treatment for these debilitating skin conditions. ...

Relief from red, itchy skin: Unraveling the secrets of vitamin D

May 12, 2011
Vitamin D helps to reduce the inflammation associated with psoriasis, a common skin condition that causes red, itchy patches on the skin, shows a new study.

Gatekeeper signal controls skin inflammation

January 26, 2012
A new study unravels key signals that regulate protective and sometimes pathological inflammation of the skin. The research, published online on January 26th in the journal Immunity by Cell Press, identifies a "gatekeeper" ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover pathway by which blood cells release a potent signalling factor

October 23, 2017
The bloodborne chemical signal sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is released by blood cells to regulate immune and vascular functions. How S1P is released to the circulation was unknown for a long time, until now. On October ...

The skinny on lipid immunology

October 20, 2017
Phospholipids - fat molecules that form the membranes found around cells - make up almost half of the dry weight of cells, but when it comes to autoimmune diseases, their role has largely been overlooked. Recent research ...

Bacterial pathogens outwit host immune defences via stealth mechanisms

October 20, 2017
Despite their relatively small genome in comparison to other bacteria, mycoplasmas can cause persistent and often difficult-to-treat infections in humans and animals. An extensive study by researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna ...

Scientists find where HIV 'hides' to evade detection by the immune system

October 19, 2017
In a decades-long game of hide and seek, scientists from Sydney's Westmead Institute for Medical Research have confirmed for the very first time the specific immune memory T-cells where infectious HIV 'hides' in the human ...

Tracing cell death pathway points to drug targets for brain damage, kidney injury, asthma

October 19, 2017
University of Pittsburgh scientists are unlocking the complexities of a recently discovered cell death process that plays a key role in health and disease, and new findings link their discovery to asthma, kidney injury and ...

Researchers release the brakes on the immune system

October 18, 2017
Many tumors possess mechanisms to avoid destruction by the immune system. For instance, they misuse the natural "brakes" in the immune defense mechanism that normally prevent an excessive immune response. Researchers at the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.