Researchers discover new source of skin defects in eczema

February 27, 2018, National Jewish Health

Researchers at National Jewish Health have discovered a cause of the dry, inflamed and itchy skin that plagues eczema patients. A team led by Donald Leung, MD, Ph.D., has shown that an immune system skewed toward allergy alters the lipids in the skin. The altered lipids allow the skin to crack, water to leave and irritants to enter, setting the stage for eczematous lesions to develop. The research, supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Atopic Dermatitis Research Network, appeared in the February 22, 2018, issue of the journal JCI Insight.

"We have long known that an activated immune system and a defective skin barrier are both important factors in eczema, but not how they are related and which one drives the disease," said Dr. Leung. "We have now shown that the allergic immune response shortens lipids in the skin, making them less effective at maintaining moisture and more susceptible to irritants."

Eczema, also known as , is a chronic skin disease that afflicts an estimated 35 million Americans. It is characterized by patches of itchy, dry and cracked skin, which can profoundly impact patients' lives. Although symptoms mostly involve the skin, an allergic immune response has long been recognized as an important component of the disease.

The researchers first examined skin from eczema patients and found lipids that were shorter than lipids in the skin of participants with no disease. Lipids are waxy substances vital to healthy skin. They help keep allergens, irritants and infections out, while keeping moisture in. Lipids with longer carbon chains are stronger and more water repellant. The shorter lipids prevalent on eczema patients' skin protect the skin less effectively.

Patients' also produced fewer of the enzymes that lengthen lipid chains. When they added cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 to cultured human skin cells, the allergic immune response kicked into high gear and lipids became shorter. Treatment with those pro-allergic enzymes also reduced expression of lipid-lengthening enzymes. Blocking the activity of IL-4 and IL-13 in the cultured skin cells resulted in an abundance of long-chain lipids.

"Our findings demonstrate how the pro-allergic, type 2 immune response alters formation in the skin, leading to a defective skin barrier and the dry, cracked and itchy in eczema," said Dr. Leung.

Explore further: How the skin becomes inflamed

Related Stories

How the skin becomes inflamed

November 8, 2017
Publishing online this week in Cell Host & Microbe, researchers at Johns Hopkins report the discovery of a key underlying immune mechanism that explains why to how our skin becomes inflamed from conditions such as atopic ...

Researchers discover key driver of atopic dermatitis

January 17, 2018
Severe eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is driven by an allergic reaction. In their latest study, researchers at La Jolla Institute reveal an important player that promotes ...

Altered lipids, skin infections may point to new personalized therapy for atopic dermatitis

March 8, 2017
Researchers have discovered a new way to identify the lipids, or fats found in the skin of people who have atopic dermatitis, and compare them to people with healthy skin.

Medical researchers propose new disease category of skin disorders

July 13, 2017
Dry scaly skin, blistering, rashes. Many people will experience some kind of skin problem at some time in their life, if only briefly. However, some individuals are severely affected by chronic skin problems throughout their ...

Treating eczema could also alleviate asthma

January 19, 2018
Scientists from VIB-UGent have discovered insights for a possible new therapy for eczema that also reduces the severity of asthma. The findings are an important next step in understanding the relationship between the two ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

A Trojan Horse delivery for treating a rare, potentially deadly, blood-clotting disorder

September 21, 2018
In proof-of-concept experiments, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have highlighted a potential therapy for a rare but potentially deadly blood-clotting disorder, TTP. The researchers deliver this therapeutic ...

Study shows surprise low-level ozone impact on asthma patients

September 21, 2018
A new study led by UNC School of Medicine researchers indicates that ozone has a greater impact on asthma patients than previously thought. The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, recruited ...

Cancer immunotherapy might benefit from previously overlooked immune players

September 20, 2018
Cancer immunotherapy—efforts to boost a patient's own immune system, allowing it to better fight cancer cells on its own—has shown great promise for some previously intractable cancers. Yet immunotherapy doesn't work ...

Gut fungus exacerbates asthma in antibiotic-treated mice

September 20, 2018
A non-pathogenic fungus can expand in the intestines of antibiotic-treated mice and enhance the severity of allergic airways disease, according to a study published September 20 in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens by ...

Paracetamol use in infancy is linked to increased risk of asthma in some teenagers

September 17, 2018
Children who take paracetamol during their first two years of life may be at a higher risk of developing asthma by the age of 18, especially if they have a particular genetic makeup, according to new research presented at ...

Cord blood clue to respiratory diseases

September 15, 2018
New research has found children born in the last three months of the year in Melbourne may have a greater risk of developing respiratory diseases such as asthma.

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.