Scratching does make itch worse

Washington: Researchers have discovered a potential new target for the debilitating skin condition eczema, and demonstrated that by blocking it, they can lessen the disease in mice.

More than 15 percent of children suffer with eczema, or atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin disease that in some cases can be debilitating and disfiguring.

In eczema, immune T cells invade the skin and secrete factors that drive an allergic response, making the skin itch.

Dr. Raif Geha, of Boston Children’s Hospital, and his collaborators has shown that scratching the skin precipitates the condition by encouraging an influx of other immune cells called neutrophils.

These neutrophils secrete a lipid called leukotriene B4 that calls in more neutrophils, and more importantly, potent immune T cells that are the hallmark of eczema. These cells cause inflammation that aggravates the skin further.

The investigators suspected that blocking the onslaught of these cells might slow down the disease or even stop it in its tracks.

Furthermore, Dr. Geha and his colleagues wondered whether the production of leukotriene B4 served to recruit T cells to the site of mechanical insult. And indeed that was the case.

“We showed that a drug that blocks the production of leukotriene B4 blocks the development of allergic skin inflammation in a mouse model of eczema,” said Dr. Geha.

His team also found that deleting the receptors on immune cells that bind to leukotriene B4 had a similar effect.

“Our findings suggest that neutrophils play a key role in allergic skin inflammation and that blockade of leukotriene B4 and its receptor might provide a new therapy for eczema,” said first author Dr. Michiko Oyoshi.

The findings have been reported in the October issue of Immunity.


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