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

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. ...

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

Research could lead to better vaccines and new antivirals

February 27, 2017

Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have identified a new regulator of the innate immune response—the immediate, natural immune response to foreign invaders. The study, published recently ...

Nature study suggests new therapy for Gaucher disease

February 22, 2017

Scientists propose in Nature blocking a molecule that drives inflammation and organ damage in Gaucher and maybe other lysosomal storage diseases as a possible treatment with fewer risks and lower costs than current therapies.

T cells support long-lived antibody-producing cells

February 21, 2017

If you've ever wondered how a vaccine given decades ago can still protect against infection, you have your plasma cells to thank. Plasma cells are long-lived B cells that reside in the bone marrow and churn out antibodies ...

Understanding how HIV evades the immune system

February 21, 2017

Monash University (Australia) and Cardiff University (UK) researchers have come a step further in understanding how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) evades the immune system.

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.