Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center are investigating the prevention of contact dermatitis by applying competing lipids to the skin that displace those triggering the immune reaction.
The itchy skin condition occurs when the immune system’s T cells recognise a chemical as foreign. However, the scientists have found that a chemical reaction with larger proteins needs to take place in order to be picked up by the T cells.
The team believes that CD1a - a molecule found on Langerhans cells, residing on the basal and suprabasal layers of the epidermis - could be the catalyst for making foreign chemicals visible to T cells.
According to the research, several common chemicals known to trigger allergic contact dermatitis were unable to bind to CD1a molecules, such as benxyl benxoate and benzyl cinnamate, found in Balsam of Peru and farnesol.
“The research paves the way for follow-up studies to confirm the mechanism in allergic patients and design inhibitors of the response,” said assistant Professor Annemieke De Jong.