Written By Kevin Kerfoot / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
New research shows how two relatively common variations in a gene called KIF3A are responsible for an impaired skin barrier that allows increased water loss from the skin, promoting the development of atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema.
This finding - supported by the National Institutes of Health - could lead to genetic tests that empower parents and physicians to take steps to potentially protect vulnerable infants from developing atopic dermatitis and additional allergic diseases. Preventing atopic dermatitis in early childhood could in turn prevent additional allergic diseases later in life, such as asthma, food allergies and allergic rhinitis.
The researchers found that these variations - or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) - changed parts of the KIF3A gene to a form that can regulate through a process called methylation the rate at which a gene is transcribed into the blueprint for protein production.
They confirmed that skin and nasal-lining cells from people with the KIF3A SNP variants had more methylation and contained fewer blueprints for the KIF3A protein than cells in which KIF3A lacked the SNPs. They also demonstrated that people with the SNP-created regulating sites had higher levels of water loss from the skin.
Preventing atopic dermatitis with SNPs
To determine whether lower levels of KIF3A caused atopic dermatitis, the scientists studied mice lacking the mouse version of KIF3A in skin cells. They found that these mice also had increased water loss from the skin due to a dysfunctional skin barrier and were more likely to develop features of atopic dermatitis.
The investigators concluded that the presence of either or both of the two SNPs in human KIF3A leads to lower production of the KIF3A protein, promoting dysfunction of the barrier that normally keeps skin well hydrated, thereby increasing the likelihood that a person will develop atopic dermatitis.
Now that investigators have established that these KIF3A SNPs increase the risk for atopic dermatitis, infants could potentially be screened for them. Therapies directed specifically at water loss from the skin - such as intensive topical moisturization regimens - could be evaluated for their ability to prevent atopic dermatitis in children with the SNPs.
Hispanic and Black Children More Likely to Miss School Due to Eczema
Research shows Hispanic and black children are more likely than white children to miss school due to the chronic skin disease eczema.
The research - from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and published in JAMA Dermatology - examined more than a decade’s worth of data among children enrolled in a national eczema registry and found Hispanic children were most likely to have missed at least six days of school over a six-month period due to their condition. Black children also saw higher probabilities of missed school days compared to white children.
The study specifically looked at eczema-related school absenteeism by race and ethnicity. Researchers used data on 8,015 patients enrolled in the Pediatric Eczema Elective Registry (PEER) between November 2004 and July 2017. Overall, 3.3 percent missed six or more days of school over a six-month period. Hispanic children were 3.4 times more likely to be chronically absent due to AD than white children, and Black children were 1.5 times more likely.
“The effects of eczema are more than skin-deep, and studies have shown that the mental health and social impact of this condition can be significant - sometimes just as much or more than the physical - and may lead to a higher number of school days missed,” says the study’s lead author Joy Wan, MD, MSCE, a post-doctoral fellow and Instructor of Dermatology.
“Most people don’t realize the serious impact eczema can have on a person’s life, and our research shows minorities may be disproportionately affected,” added the study’s senior author Junko Takeshita, MD, Ph.D., MSCE, an assistant professor of Dermatology and Epidemiology. “We still have a lot to learn about eczema-related disparities but it’s becoming increasingly clear that these disparities need to be addressed.”
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With over 30 years of writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines and corporate communications, Kevin Kerfoot writes about natural health, nutrition, skincare and oral hygiene for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletters.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.