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Using the body's own defenses could revolutionize neurodermatitis therapy
The treatment options for neurodermatitis (atopic eczema) are still extremely limited. Scientists at Edinburgh University have now discovered a new approach to therapy using the body's natural defenses. "The discovery could help create new treatments for atopic dermatitis that affects five in 20 children and one in 20 adults in the UK," said Edinburgh University.
The scientists were able to identify a new approach of how the body's natural defenses can be used in a possible treatment for neurodermatitis. The researchers "have found a way to use the body's defense system to repair tiny fractures in the natural skin barrier that make people more susceptible to eczema," the university said. The researchers have published their results in the journal "Journal of Investigative Dermatology".
Increased susceptibility to bacterial infections
A disease of neurodermatitis is associated with itchy skin lesions, which, according to the researchers, result in an increased susceptibility to infections. The disease can have far-reaching effects on the lives of those affected, such as at work or when sleeping, when the constant itching leads to massive sleep problems. The latest studies have shown how important an intact natural skin barrier is in order to prevent eczema, the scientists further explain. This barrier can be affected, for example, by genetic errors, environmental factors or bacterial infections. In general, bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus are much more likely to be found on the skin of people with neurodermatitis and the bacteria can easily lead to infection via the skin lesions, which causes further damage to the skin barrier.
Detected substance protects the skin barrier
The research team around Dr. Donald J. Davidson of the University of Edinburgh has now discovered in his current research that skin cells can be instructed to make a naturally occurring protective connection. "This substance - called human beta-defensin 2 (hBD2) - is known to kill bacteria," the scientists report. In the current study, a protective effect on the skin barrier was also found. In neurodermatitis patients, there is insufficient production of hBD2 in the skin lesions, which has the corresponding adverse effect on the protective function.
Conventional treatment options are inadequate
In laboratory tests, the researchers found that adding hBD2 helps the skin to remain intact and protect the cells from bacterial infections. The researchers hope that their findings could lead to new therapies for neurodermatitis. Conventional treatment with steroid creams is only a limited help for neurodermatitis patients in view of the impending side effects and the diminishing effect over time.
Hope for new therapies
Atopic eczema is an incredibly widespread disease and if it could be better treated by recruiting the body's natural defense systems in the future, it could have a major impact on the lives of many people, according to dermatologist Dr. Richard Weller, who was also involved in the study. To what extent a clinical application of the mechanism of hBD2 in neurodermatitis therapy is possible, further studies have to be clarified. (fp)