Genetic causes of diseases are taking the front seat in research activities of scientists.
In this direction scientists at the Oregon State University have recently discovered the genetic basis of eczema also known as atopic dermatitis – a condition which affects a large fraction of the population around the world.
It is characterized by dry, flaky skin which is inflamed and itchy. The findings were published in the recent edition of the medical journal PLoS ONE.
Ctip2: A Protein That Controls Lipid Synthesis
Researchers at the OSU identified that the protein Ctip2, a master regulator of some genetic functions, to be the cause of eczema. This protein regulates the lipid synthesis pathways in the skin.
These fats act as water proofs for the skin and locks moisture inside, keeping the skin hydrated and healthy. Ctip2 acts mainly by blocking the action of another protein called TSLP which triggers inflammation in the skin.
- Triggering inflammation in the skin due to overactive TSLP
- Reduced lipid synthesis that leads to a dry skin
As a result the skin’s resistance to inflammation is decreasing while the levels of inflammation causing factors are increasing.
Until now, topical treatments such as moisturizers are the only solutions to deal with eczema which only relieves the inflammation for a while. In severe cases steroids are recommended but they are accompanied by side effects and hence cannot be used as long-term remedies.
With new discoveries in the Ctip2 genetics, target based customized therapeutics are a possibility. Systemic epigenetic modification is another possibility that the research could lead to.
Lead author of the paper Dr. Arup Indra says that the laboratory study of Ctip2 activity is of considerable importance and has opened fresh avenues for research on the subject. Research on smaller mammals like mice can result in invitro production of these proteins which can then be used as anti-inflammatory agents.