In yesterday’s New York Times, Personal Health columnist Jane Brody wrote about eczema, which causes dry, red, itchy skin in 15 to 30 percent of children and two to 10 percent of adults. Although the disease is often more manageable in the summer when the skin is exposed to lots of sunlight, patients have limited options to keep the condition at bay.
Brody highlighted research conducted by Lisa Beck, M.D., professor, and Anna De Benedetto, M.D., instructor (as of August 1), in the Department of Dermatology. They’ve identified a protein called claudin-1 that is significantly weakened in the skin of eczema patients, but not in healthy individuals or individuals with other skin diseases like psoriasis. They demonstrated that reducing claudin-1 expression in skin cells from healthy donors made the skin leaky and more permeable – the hallmark of eczema.
If their work stands up in future research, increasing claudin-1 to combat eczema could be a new treatment approach worth exploring, notes Brody, whose identical twin sons had eczema as young children, and one still has it in his 40s. The University of Rochester has applied for patent protection for increasing claudin-1 with drug compounds to treat eczema.