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New Study Brings Us One Step Closer To Treating Skin Conditions Like Eczema & Psoriasis

Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
By Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Image by iStock
June 9, 2020

Triggers for inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis range far and wide (things like allergies, cold weather, spicy foods, even internal factors like stress can be at play). And while derms have identified plenty of these potential irritants, we still don't actually know the root cause of these conditions. Well, thanks to a new study, we are one step closer to (hopefully) understanding what's at the root of these skin conditions: It comes down to the genetic structure of your skin barrier.

Needless to say, your skin barrier is important, and discovering ways to support it is something we discuss at length here at mbg. So when a new study identifies a protein structure in the skin that helps protect this barrier, consider us captivated.  

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Here's what they found. 

In a study conducted on newborn mice, a group of researchers at the Black Family Stem Cell Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai discovered an essential protein for forming the skin barrier, called HDAC3. Even more so, mice without the HDAC3 protein were unable to develop a functional skin barrier.

Your skin barrier prevents water loss as well as prevents irritants from entering the dermis, so it makes sense that a dysfunctional barrier would result in significantly dehydrated skin and exacerbate inflammatory conditions (like the previously mentioned eczema).

"While HDAC3 has been studied in diverse contexts, its role and transcriptional partners in the developing epidermis had not been identified until now," says Katherine Szigety, an M.D./Ph.D. student and first author of the study, in a news release. Meaning, we're just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to this beneficial protein in our skin—but its potential for better understanding inflammatory skin conditions is quite promising. 

It's actually the very next step for the research group, according to director of the Black Family Stem Cell Institute Sarah E. Millar, Ph.D. Now that they know how important this is for a functional skin barrier, they can dive deeper into these specific skin conditions, whether those patients lack the important molecule, and how it all comes into play together.

Currently, limiting known triggers is how patients are advised to keep flare-ups to a minimum; in fact, as of now, identifying and avoiding those triggers is perhaps the most important part of treating inflammatory skin conditions, according to derms. But if we can find the root cause of these diseases, perhaps it'll lead to much earlier interventions, more targeted remedies, and even a long-term treatment.

So where do we go from here?

While the jury's still out on whether this protein (or lack thereof) is what causes skin concerns like eczema and psoriasis, it brings us one step closer to treating those conditions down the line. After all, a strong skin barrier is crucial for keeping that inflammation at bay; if you often suffer from some unforgiving flare-ups, this protein could very well hold a portion of the blame.

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Jamie Schneider
Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.