New therapeutic approach to help with eczema

New therapeutic approach to help with eczema

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Antibody therapy could relieve neurodermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that has not yet been treated as a cause. Instead, therapy is all about treating the symptoms to relieve the discomfort. Swiss researchers have now found a possible new therapeutic approach against the skin disease.

Severely impaired quality of life

Neurodermatitis (atopic dermatitis, atopic eczema) is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that is usually accompanied by severe itching, dry, scaly and reddened skin. "Due to the itching and the visible rashes, neurodermatitis can severely affect the psyche and quality of life of those affected," writes the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). Although the cause of the disease cannot be cured, great success has been achieved in the treatment of the disease in recent years. Swiss researchers are now also reporting on a new possible therapeutic approach. They have shown that the same immune cells that protect against yeasts promote the inflammatory symptoms of neurodermatitis. Therapy with antibodies could alleviate the chronic skin disease.

Skin is densely populated with fungi

The skin of humans and animals is densely populated with fungi, reports the University of Zurich (UZH) in a message.

It is believed that the small yeasts called Malassezia, which along with bacteria and viruses are part of the healthy microflora of the skin, strengthen the body's defenses and prepare the immune system to deal with dangerous pathogens - much like certain bacteria do.

Unlike the bacteria, however, little is known about the physiological processes that keep the ubiquitous fungi on the skin under control.

Researchers at UZH are now showing that the immune system is responsible for the balance on the skin.

They were able to demonstrate for the first time in mice and humans that the Malassezia fungi stimulate the immune system to produce the messenger substance interleukin-17.

"If the messenger is not released or the interleukin-17-producing defense cells are missing, the fungus can grow without restriction and overgrow the skin," said Salomé LeibundGut-Landmann, professor and head of the Department of Immunology at the Vetsuisse Faculty at UZH.

Overreaction of the immune system

But what happens when the balance on the surface of the body gets out of joint? There is evidence that the normally harmless Malassezia mushrooms play a role in neurodermatitis.

This skin disease causes the immune system to overreact against environmental antigens, such as dust mites.

Eczema develops, which is characterized by dry, reddened skin and severe itching, for example in the flexion of the joints, and affects up to 20 percent of children and up to ten percent of adults.

This allergic dermatitis is also one of the most common skin diseases in dogs.

The study, now published in the specialist magazine "Cell Host & Microbe", confirms that the interleukin-17-producing immune cells, which normally protect against the fungi and keep their growth in check, contribute to the development of neurodermatitis.

The fungus, so to speak, becomes an allergen on the skin and causes an overreaction of the immune system with corresponding inflammatory characteristics on the skin.

Experiments with cells from affected neurodermatitis patients, which were carried out together with the University Hospital Zurich and the ETH Zurich, support this finding.

Treatment with therapeutic antibodies

"The results of our study suggest that therapeutic antibodies that neutralize the effects of interleukin 17 could be effective in neurodermatitis," said the author responsible, LeibundGut-Landmann.

"These antibodies already exist and are used with great success in the treatment of psoriasis."

However, it remains to be clarified why the immune response to the ubiquitous Malassezia fungus can become pathological and why the normally protective immune mechanisms fail in neurodermatitis patients. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Serious Eczema Symptoms Beyond the Skin with Jonathan Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH (June 2022).


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