Immune Breakthrough: Unscratching Poison Ivy’s Rash
News Aug 24, 2016
We all know that a brush with poison ivy leaves us with an itchy painful rash. Now, Monash and Harvard researchers have discovered the molecular cause of this irritation. The finding brings us a step closer to designing agents to block this mechanism and sheds light on other serious skin conditions, such as psoriasis.
The international team of scientists have shown, for the first time, a connection between an immune molecule found in the skin and skin sensitisers – the research was published overnight in Nature Immunology.
Professor Jamie Rossjohn, co-lead author with Dr Florian Winau, Harvard Medical School, confirmed the body’s immune molecule, CD1a, plays a crucial role in mediating skin inflammation and irritation after contact with urushiol – the ‘active ingredient’ found in plants endemic to Northern America and parts of Europe and Australia.
“A complex set of experiments, coupled with imaging techniques at the Australian Synchrotron revealed the molecular interplay between CD1a and urushiol. This highlights CDIa’s role in sudden and uncomfortable skin reactions,” Professor Rossjohn says.
CRACKING A 35 YEAR MYSTERY
Dr Tang Yongqing and Dr Jerome Le Nours say the research team needed a combination of scientific creativity and ingenuity to crack the CD1a–urushiol code.
“For over 35 years we have known CD1a is abundant in the skin,” says Dr Le Nours. “Its role in inflammatory skin disorders has been difficult to investigate and until now has been really unclear. Our work represents clear evidence that CD1a is instrumental in skin-related diseases. We are the first scientists to image the CD1a–urushiol connection. ”
“Our results were strengthened by in vivo and clinical studies at Harvard Medical School, in the United States,” Dr Yongqing says.
The studies in Boston also showed that blocking the function of CD1a prevents the triggering of this skin-based allergic reaction, giving the researchers further evidence of just how important CD1a is.
“Future research could lead to the development of new treatments to combat minor skin irritations as well as chronic inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema and rosacea,” says Dr Yongqing.
“We now have a target to further investigate. Our basic discovery may make a big difference in the future treatment and prevention of inflammatory skin diseases,” Dr Le Nours concludes.
This work was a collaboration between researchers from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (Rossjohn, Yongqing, Le Nours) and researchers at the Harvard Medical School (Winau).
Cryo-EM Reveals Interaction Between Major Drug TargetsNews
For the first time, scientists have visualized the interaction between two critical components of the body's vast cellular communication network, a discovery that could lead to more effective medications with fewer side effects for conditions ranging from migraine to cancer.READ MORE
The Friedrich Schiller University Jena Partners with ACD/Labs to Advance its Analytical Data Management StrategyNews
Implementation of ACD/Spectrus as an analytical data management system helps researchers and students streamline NMR and MS data processing, interpretation, collaboration, and training.READ MORE
Olympus Image of the Year – Celebrating Art in ScienceNews
Inspired by the beauty and breadth of images submitted for Image of the Year 2017, Olympus continues its quest for the best light microscopy art in 2018. For the chance to win a microscope or camera, applicants can now submit life science light microscopy images taken with Olympus equipment.READ MORE