If you get eczema, you know how much of a pain it can be, quite literally!
Even if you don’t suffer from eczema yourself, you probably know somebody who does, whether it’s in your family, friends or co-workers.
Everybody knows it’s a chronic and annoying skin condition, were sufferers will often complain of sore, red itchy patches on their skin.
Well, that sure is eczema. We know what it is, but until now, nobody has really been able to understand why it happens. Just what is going on with a person’s skin when they have this condition?
Well whether you get it yourself or not, you may be interested to know that scientists have finally discovered what actually happens to the skin of people who have this condition.
All this time, we have known that eczema is an inflammation of the skin, but it’s cause has been unknown. It’s the most common form of a kind of skin condition called atopic dermatitis, closely related to other long term illnesses like asthma and allergic rhinitis.
Usually, it starts in childhood, affecting up to 20% of children, but worldwide it still affects 3% of adults. It’s estimated that over 245 million people are the world suffer from eczema.
Although for years now there have been several creams and ointments out there to help relieve the itch which is a symptom of eczema, there’s no cure that will make it go away.
Not yet anyway, but we’re now one step closer to making that happen!
Scientists are now closer than ever before to knowing the exact processes that occur in a person’s skin when they have eczema. This information could eventually help researchers to finally figure out how to cure this chronic skin condition.
It was discovered about ten years ago that sufferers of eczema usually have a lack of a gene called filaggrin in their bodies, so researchers thought this could be a clue as to how the condition actually occurs.
Filaggrin is a kind of protein that is used by the body to help shape skin cells along with doing the important job of creating the skin’s barrier function.
If someone happens to be born with an imbalance of this important protein in their skin, it can result in complaints such as eczema, or ichthyosis vulgaris, on which the skin doesn’t shed properly. This is where dead skin isn’t shed properly, and can stay on the body until it looks like fish scales, which gives the disease its name.
But this is actually the first time that scientists have been able to figure out exactly how eczema develops when filaggrin is lacking.
Scientists at Newcastle University in England partnered with the dermatologist pharmaceutical company 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 says.
In order to search for these mechanisms, the team created a 3-D model called a Living Skin Equivalent, or LSE for short.
Next, they altered the top layer of the LSE so that the amount of filaggrin it had was too small, which is similar to people who suffer from this genetic mutation associated with eczema.
They found that when skin is lacking filaggrin, that’s actually enough to alter the molecular model of the skin. So the skin’s cell structure, barrier function, and how the cells can become inflamed and respond to stress isn’t as good as normal.
“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 in tests with actual humans, so results from healthy skin and those who have eczema were both analyzed.
After this study, they found that many of the proteins they discovered were altered in the same way as only those with eczema, a lot like their model created in the lab had shown.
So although they haven’t exactly found a cure for it yet, they’re definitely on the right track, and this stands as a promising step in the right direction.
As soon as scientists can discover what actually happens in the skin when it’s lacking that crucial gene filaggrin, they should be able to develop medications to stop this from happening in the future.
So perhaps in a few years, nobody will have to suffer from that horrible itchy skin condition eczema!
Do you think this is a good thing? Maybe you get eczema and you’re tired of itching, so any news is good news! Or maybe it all still seems a bit far off and sci-fi. Whatever your thoughts, don’t be shy! Leave a COMMENT and SHARE this article if you enjoyed it!