Do you suffer from eczema? This is what really happens to your skin

If you have ever suffered an eczema you are likely more than familiar with the pain and itchiness that accompany it. Actually, when we speak of 'eczema' we mean a generic term of any inflammation, also known as dermatitis, and that defines a set of skin diseases that have different causes. Even today the causes that cause it are not entirely clear, although it is thought that it has a strong genetic component.

This type of alteration is more common in babies, but in other cases it is a chronic disorder that the patient will have to deal with throughout his life. For example, atopic dermatitis (the most common) usually comes from inhalation or ingestion of allergens, the contact begins when the skin comes into direct contact with certain materials or substances or neurodermatitis occurs with an itch on the skin that induces the need to scratch, and the action itself ends up producing eczema.

In the last decade it has been known that eczema is associated with a genetic lack of filaggrin (protein that adds filaments) in the skin

For a long time, scientists have tried to learn more about the process that damages the skin of people with this condition, to understand why it occurs and, in this way, help fight it. In 2006, as reported by 'Science Alert', a strong link was discovered between people who lack a certain protein in their skin and the risk of developing this problem. In 2017, based on these results, an attempt was made to investigate the subject in order to somehow approach a cure for eczema.

In the last decade, eczema has been known to be associated with a genetic lack of filaggrin (a protein that adds filaments) in the skin. It is what helps to shape skin cells and plays a very important role in the barrier function of our skin. If a person has a genetic mutation (we pointed out at the beginning that it is believed to have a strong genetic component) that prevents the adequate supply of filaggrin, they can develop conditions such as the aforementioned or ichthyosis vulgaris, where the skin cells, instead of break off, they accumulate in a pattern that might remind us of the scales of some fish. Although there are many creams on the market to treat the problem, it is not yet known how to eradicate it completely.

Filaggrin helps shape skin cells and plays a very important role in our skin's barrier function.

Until recently it was not known how eczema actually develops when filaggrin is missing. The breakthrough came in 2016, when several scientists at the University of Newcastle analyzed a series of proteins that lead to this skin problem. "We have shown for the first time that loss of protein alone is sufficient to alter other key proteins involved in triggering eczema", he explained at the time Nick reynolds, one of the study authors. To get what they wanted, the team used a laboratory-created three-dimensional living skin equivalent model and altered the top layer of this synthetic skin, making it filaggrin deficient, like people with this genetic mutation.

17 proteins

Thus, they discovered that the deficiency could cause a series of molecular changes in the skin, affected cell structure, barrier function and even some cells became inflamed and responded to stress. In particular, according to Reynolds, identified 17 proteins that were 'expressed' significantly differentially when filaggrin was removed. The researchers then had to verify these initial findings by analyzing proteins in human skin samples, comparing the results between participants suffering from eczema and other healthy ones. Thus they were able to verify that, as had happened in the laboratory, several of the proteins that they detected were altered in similarly only in those with eczema.

Is this finding promising? Undoubtedly, because once scientists know for sure what happens in the skin when you have the 'faulty' filaggrin gene, the next step will be to look for medications that can prevent that from happening. We only have to wait, but it is undoubtedly good news for those suffering from dermatitis problems.