London: Scientists including an Indian-origin researcher have discovered a malfunctioning protein that triggers dry, itchy and inflamed skin lesions in a common type of eczema.
Researchers at Oregon State University found that the protein Ctip2 that controls body fats that keep skin healthy and hydrated, can cause atopic dermatitis, a common type of eczema if it is not performing properly.
Eczema allows significant loss of fluids through the skin, allowing allergens to penetrate, the `Daily Mail` reported.
"In these studies, we`ve basically shown that inadequate Ctip2 is reducing the lipids in skin that it needs to stay healthy, protect itself and perform its function," Arup Indra, an associate professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy said.
"At the same time, this can allow unwanted formation of proteins that trigger inflammation," Indra said.
"The skin`s ability to resist inflammation is going down just as the amount of inflammation is going up, and the underlying reason is that Ctip2 is not doing its job. Either or both of these problems can lead to eczema," Indra added.
Atopic dermatitis is associated with a dysfunctional immune response, but researchers have not understood the underlying cause.
Existing treatments use moisturisers to try to protect skin, and in difficult cases powerful steroid drugs can help, but they often have significant unwanted side effects, especially in long-term use.
Most people outgrow it as they reach adulthood, but some suffer from the condition their entire life.
"Our skin is the largest organ in the human body and one of the most important," Indra said.
"It`s our first barrier of defence, 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," Indra added.
The study was published in journal PLoS ONE.