Recent research published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine identified the protein known as LIGHT as a key factor in the development of eczema, or atopic dermatitis (AD). Researchers are looking into how to block LIGHT to treat severe cases of the condition.
LIGHT, a protein of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily, is short for “homologous to Lymphotoxin, exhibits Inducible expression and competes with HSV Glycoprotein D for binding to Herpesvirus entry mediator, a receptor expressed on T lymphocytes.”
Previous research has found LIGHT to play a role in other inflammatory skin issues, including scleroderma. This time around, researchers found that LIGHT controls the expression of the protein periostin—a marker of allergic diseases such as AD and asthma—and the rapid increase of keratinocytes (epidermal cells that produce keratin).
To conduct the study, researchers replicated AD in an animal model. LIGHT-deficient mice were found to experience minimal AD symptoms compared with the control, while HVEM- (a LIGHT receptor) deficient mice experienced similar effects. Researchers then used an existing therapeutic antibody in places AD had already manifested, which was able to suppress inflammation and reduce epidermal thickening on the affected skin by blocking interaction between LIGHT and HVEM.
“[This is] great news for patients suffering from eczema. Our findings suggest that therapies that block LIGHT signaling might halt atopic dermatitis in humans and maybe even reverse disease symptoms,” said Rana Herro, Ph.D., in a press release.