Tags: eczema | atopic | dermatitis | gene

Is Eczema a Genetic Disease?

Friday, 28 December 2012 10:59 AM

Oregon State University researchers have discovered a genetic cause of atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin patches in millions of people.
The findings, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, pave the way for new gene-based therapies for the uncurable, difficult-to-treat condition that is related to, and can sometimes cause, asthma.
"With a better understanding of just what is causing eczema on a genetic basis, we should be able to personalize treatments, determine exactly what each person needs, and develop new therapies," said Arup Indra, an associate professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy. "This might be with topical compounds … or customized treatments."
In laboratory studies, the OSU researchers found eczema can be triggered by low levels of a protein known as Ctip2, which controls genetic functions. They found that Ctip2 regulates fats in skin cells that are needed to help keep skin healthy and hydrated, but it also suppresses the inflammation.
"Either or both of these problems can lead to eczema," Indra said.
Eczema is a persistent skin rash that some studies suggest is linked to food or pollen allergens. Most people outgrow it as they reach adulthood, but some suffer from the debilitating condition their entire life. Eczema allows loss of fluids through the skin, lets allergens in, and in severe cases can cause a systemic inflammation in the body.
Atopic dermatitis, a common type of eczema, is tied to a faulty immune response. Existing treatments use moisturizers to try to protect skin, and in difficult cases powerful steroid drugs can help, but they often have significant negative side effects.
"Our skin is the largest organ in the human body and one of the most important," Indra said. "It's our first barrier of defense, is in a constant battle against external insults, is influenced by both genetics and the environment, and has to be finely tuned to do many jobs. In eczema, this process begins to break down."
The OSU study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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OSU researchers have discovered a genetic cause of atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema.
Friday, 28 December 2012 10:59 AM
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