Skin’s own defences point towards new eczema therapies
October 2016: The body’s own natural defences could be harnessed in a potential therapy for a common skin condition, research suggests.
The body’s own natural defences could be harnessed in a potential therapy for a common skin condition, research suggests. The discovery may help create new treatments for atopic eczema, which affects around one in five children and one in 20 adults in the UK.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Inflammation Research have discovered that skin cells can be instructed to produce a naturally occurring protective compound. This substance – called human beta-defensin 2 (hBD2) – is known to kill bacteria, but the study found it is also vital in preventing damage to the skin barrier caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Individuals with eczema typically do not turn on production of hBD2 in their damaged skin lesions.
The researchers found that when hBD2 was applied to skin cells grown in the lab, it helped the skin to remain intact, with the cells strengthening protection against the bacterial damage like reinforcing mortar between the bricks in a wall. Their findings could lead to new therapies to prevent or treat eczema. Conventional treatment with steroid creams can have side-effects, and become less effective over time.
The study is published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. The work was funded by the Medical Research Council and China Scholarship Council.