More and more of us are suffering from allergies, including allergic asthma, and atopic dermatitis where the skin over-reacts to common substances in the environment – a condition that affects between one in ten and one in five children.
But until now, these two conditions weren’t thought to be linked. Now new results from researchers in France and Japan have found a molecule that makes a connection between allergic asthma and atopic dermatitis.
The scientists, led by Zhikun Zhang, triggered atopic dermatitis in mice by rubbing their ears with a chemical called MC903, which brings on the irritation by activating a protein called thymic stromal lymphopoetin, also known as TSLP, in the skin cells.
The team discovered that producing this protein in the skin made the animals more susceptible to developing a mouse version of asthma later in life.
When they tested them with allergens that can bring on asthma, the mice who had developed atopic dermatitis were much more likely to have inflammation in their lungs that mice that had never been treated with the chemical or developed the skin condition.
The scientists think that the protein is produced by skin cells at the site of the atopic dermatitis, but it moves around the body in the bloodstream and can aggravate the over-active immune response that leads to asthma.
Now this link has been found, it helps us to understand more about the molecules that underpin both conditions. So not only could it help to identify children who are at higher risk of developing asthma later in life, it could also pave the way for effective preventative therapies to stop them from developing lung problems altogether.