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Scientists Pinpoint a Key Enzyme to Improve the Treatment of Eczema

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Scientists Pinpoint a Key Enzyme to Improve the Treatment of Eczema featured image
CRISTINA PEDRAZZINI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Eczema is not a minor condition. While, in some cases, it can be concealed with a specific hairstyle or a long-sleeved shirt, the reality is that it makes the skin swollen, itchy, dry and red—the exact opposite of how we want our complexion to appear.

According to a study in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) have discovered a key enzyme in the development of eczema which may bring us one step closer to saying goodbye to this condition.

Eczema—also known as atopic dermatitis (AD)—can be triggered by a long list of external factors: laundry detergent, soaps, heat, emotional stress, or pollen as well as internal factors like asthma, inflammation in the body and an immune system imbalance. “The symptoms people often experience with eczema make them more likely to avoid going outside their homes or to work,” says Dr. David Granville, senior author of the study and professor at the University of British Columbia.

In the study, the researchers concluded that an enzyme known as Granzyme B is the culprit behind the more severe symptoms of eczema, such as itchiness or pain. This enzyme breaks the barrier between the proteins that connect cells, which makes it easier for environmental factors to seep through and irritate the skin.

The million dollar question is how to disarm Granzyme B, and the scientists have a lead: “By knocking out Granzyme B with genetic modification, or inhibiting it with a topical gel, they could prevent it from damaging the skin’s barrier and significantly reduce the severity of AD,” notes a press release from The University of British Columbia.

According to nationaleczema.org, current eczema treatments “include corticosteroids, PDE4 inhibitors, topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) and skin barrier creams.” But none of these treatments have shown a complete elimination of the condition. Dr. Granville says, “Our study provides evidence that topical drugs targeting Granzyme B could be used to treat patients with eczema and other forms of dermatitis.”

Although this treatment is still in the works, hope for a solution is on the horizon.

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