Some researchers in the UK have found a compound within the body that may help reinforce the skin’s natural barrier and help mitigate the symptoms of skin conditions like eczema. While the findings do not necessarily offer a cure, they suggest a way to help mitigate one of the known suspects in the collection of factors that can influence eczema.
In Brief: Eczema
Also known as atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis, it is a skin condition that is caused by a dysfunction in the immune system and the skin’s barrier properties. The causes are likely a mix of environmental and genetic factors, but the symptoms remain largely the same. People who experience eczema face itchy skin lesions that can lead to broken skin, crusting or oozing, and higher rates of skin infection.
What the Researchers Found
There is a substance in the human body called “human beta-defensin 2” (hBD2) and is known to kill bacteria. The researchers found that it also helps protect the skin barrier from damage by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Staph bacteria are prevalent on most people’s skin—you are likely covered in it right now, for instance—and it is suspected of being a contributor to eczema or at least an aggravator. The researchers found that, when applied to skin cells in a lab, hBD2 was able to keep the skin barrier intact against staph damage. They likened this to reinforcing the mortar in a brick wall.
Since people with eczema do not normally have hBD2 present in their skin lesions, it is thought that this finding could lead to the development of new therapies.
Given that the findings are confined to skin cells in a Petri dish, it is unclear for now whether the hBD2 discovery has any direct implications for people who currently have eczema. A good deal more testing and clinical trials will be needed to see if any skin condition treatments can be derived from the findings, so right now this is a matter of watching and waiting.
“Skin defences point to eczema therapies,” University of Edinburgh web site, October 3, 2016; http://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2016/skin-defences-point-to-eczema-therapies, last accessed October 5, 2016.