Allergies linked to excess cells

Tags: Allergy , Children

The rise in skin allergies - along with the high cost of drugs and the higher likelihood of suffering from further immune system-related allergies - have prompted scientists to look for ways to reduce symptoms.

As many as half of all children with atopic dermatitis will go on to have other allergies, such as asthma, in what has been named the "allergic march," whereby the patient slowly acquires allergies that are closely linked to their condition.  

Professor David Artis, associate professor of Microbiology, and Dr Brian Kim, clinical instructor of Dermatology, from the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, have discovered a new role played by a newly isolated immune cell population in the development of atopic dermatitis. The research has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The researchers identified a build-up of specific cells known as innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in the skin of people with atopic dermatitis. When examining the condition in a mouse, they found that rodent ILCs are involved in the development of the condition. The research shows that innate lymphoid cells could represent a new focus for treatments.

"Like foot soldiers protecting the skin barrier from onslaught, innate lymphoid cells are present in healthy skin and we would predict that these cells play a role in maintaining normal tissue function and perhaps in protecting against microbes on this barrier," said Artis. He also said that in the case of serious inflammatory conditions such as atopic dermatitis, undetected innate lymphoid cells can cause inflammation.

Kim added that as a result of our increasingly sterile living conditions, there could be an excess of immune cells, which could help trigger the development of allergies such as eczema.

The scientists hope the research will mean that new treatments can be created to help reduce the number of atopic dermatitis cases.

Copyright Press Association 2013

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