Next: ditch the itch

Next: ditch the itch

 

BY LINDA BAKER

0313 NextItchy and inflamed skin is the bane of existence for people who suffer from atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema most common in infancy that also affects millions of adults around the world. Now scientists at Oregon State University have discovered an underlying genetic cause for the condition, a discovery that may lead to more effective therapies. The culprit is “Ctip2,” a protein and “master” regulator that controls the production of lipids, the fats that help keep the skin healthy. The regulator also suppresses a protein manufactured by skin cells that can cause irritation. In animal studies, researchers found that malfunctioning Ctip2 can produce eczema either by reducing the lipids in the skin or by allowing the protein that triggers inflammation to form. To alleviate both problems, scientists are working on topical compounds that would restore fat levels and possibly increase the expression of Ctip2, said Arup Indra, an associate professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy. The development of such treatments could eventually lead to personalized gene therapies, says Indra. “Our understanding of genomics is improving day by day, even hourly,” Indra says. “The challenge is using that understanding to develop therapies that are effective.”