A cure for eczema may finally be on the horizon, after scientists discovered what is triggering the debilitating skin condition.
Around one in 10 adults and 20 per cent of children in Britain suffer from eczema, a complaint which causes the skin to become, itchy, red, cracked and painful.
Until now, doctors have only been able to treat the symptoms, but Newcastle University has found that a missing protein called filaggrin is responsible.
Given the level of suffering eczema causes, this is a pivotal piece of research.
Nina Goad. British Association of Dermatologists
Nick Reynolds, Professor of Dermatology at Newcastle University said: "We have shown for the first time that loss of the filaggrin protein alone is sufficient to alter key proteins and pathways involved in triggering eczema.
“This research reinforces the importance of filaggrin deficiency leading to problems with the barrier function in the skin and predisposing someone to eczema."
The team at Newcastle created a model of human skin so that it was lacking in filaggrin, and found that without it the skin became inflamed, damaged and lacking cell structure. In fact removing filaggrin triggered exactly the same pathways that occur when people experience active eczema.
This researchers say the new understanding of what is happening beneath the skin will help them design drugs which can boost protein production, and prevent the condition occurring.
Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists said: "This latest research from Newcastle is crucial as it expands on our knowledge of how filaggrin impacts on other proteins and pathways in the skin, which in turn trigger the disease.
“This type of research allows scientists to develop treatments that target the actual root cause of the disease, rather than just managing its symptoms. Given the level of suffering eczema causes, this is a pivotal piece of research."
The research was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.