Journal: Nature Communications
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Scratching beneath the surface of an itchy condition
© Samira Hohn/EyeEm/Getty
The protein causing an immune response that causes chronic itchiness has been found.
Atopic dermatitis is an allergic condition that makes the immune system hypersensitive to foreign substances. When these substances are detected, the immune cells release a large quantity of the inflammation-inducing molecule, IL-31, which causes severe itchiness.
A team led by researchers from Kyushu University studied mice with atopic dermatitis and found they carried up to ten times more EPAS1, a protein that responds to low oxygen levels, in their immune cells compared to healthy mice.
They injected EPAS1 into healthy mice and observed increased levels of IL-31, whereas when they engineered mice with atopic dermatitis but restricted EPAS1 activity, IL-31 levels were reduced.
Antihistamines are a common treatment for itchiness, but they do not always work for this symptom of atopic dermatitis. Now, therapeutic targeting of EPAS1 could help soothe the skin of patients with this condition, the authors suggest.
- Nature Communications 8,13946 (2017). doi: 10.1038/ncomms13946