Atopic eczema and psoriasis, two of the most common chronic skin conditions, have a range of environmental and genetic causes. Because of the complexity of these diseases, medical researchers are finding new factors all the time. Hopefully, their search to more fully understand what triggers these skin rashes will lead to more effective treatments.
Researchers from Munich and Munchen Offer Insight
Now, a pair of German scientists believe they may have cracked another part of the code for these illnesses. Stefanie and Kilian Eyerich took a novel approach to investigating these conditions by researching patients who suffer from both psoriasis and eczema simultaneously. Having both skin conditions is fairly rare, so this select group of patients provided a glimpse into what’s going on in the immune system.
Psoriasis and eczema are both understood to occur because of a hyperactive response in the immune system. But that’s only a broad overview of what’s going on. The patients in the study group had a strong T-cell response that prompted the series of molecular reactions leading to skin inflammation (which can present as either psoriasis or eczema). This role of T-cells in psoriatic episodes had previously not been clearly identified.
Immunological Memory Too Good?
Rather than being linked to a failure to recognize foreign substances in the body, atopic eczema is apparently caused by an immunological system that isn’t good at forgetting. The T-cells keep an eagle eye out for allergens contained in substances like pollen and dust mite droppings – boosting the body’s immune system into high gear whenever the presence of these proteins is detected. Basically, the T-cells remember these substances in their “library” of foreign materials rather than overlooking them as basically harmless stuff.
How might this information help medical researchers develop better treatments? Let’s say the specific molecules within the T-cell that are responsible for “remembering” the allergens and triggering the eczema and psoriasis symptoms can be identified. If that happens, it might be possible to block or impair these parts of the T-cell that hold the memory of allergens and disrupt the cycle of hyperactive immune response as a result.