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La Jolla Institute scientist identifies pivotal cell causing eczema

Researchers from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology have revealed a critical player in the cellular interactions leading to eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin condition affecting more than 14 million U.S. children and adults.

In a study published Thursday, Toshiaki Kawakami, M.D., Ph.D., and his research team provided information that supports -- for the first time in humans -- the long-held theory that mast cells are a key culprit in causing eczema. The team also showed that a cellular protein, known as STAT5, plays a pivotal role by triggering major increases in mast cells in the skin of some eczema sufferers. The discovery opens the door to creating new therapies to prevent or better treat eczema based on blocking STAT5 in mast cells.

“We found that the number of mast cells, which we have previously shown to be important in mouse atopic dermatitis, is increased in human patients,” said Kawakami. “We also showed that these mast cells contain high levels of the active form of STAT5.”

The findings were published online in Cell Reports in a paper entitled “Critical role for mast-cell STAT5 activity in skin inflammation.” The study was supported in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component of the National Institutes of Health.

Other researchers in a multinational team contributed to this study, including those from Johns Hopkins University; University of California, San Diego; National Research Institute for Child Health and Development (Tokyo); RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences (IMS-RCAI); Saga Medical University; Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and University of Technology Dresden.

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