A newly discovered method for analyzing and comparing the skin lipids in healthy patients and those with atopic dermatitis (AD) may lead to more personalized treatments for AD, say the researchers who developed the technique.
The scientists also discovered a previously unreported but clear link between atopic dermatitis, altered lipid profiles and some types of bacterial infections such as staphylococcus aureus. These findings were published online in the British Journal of Dermatology (Feb. 28, 2017)
The authors believe these staph infections may lead both to atopic dermatitis problems and make people more prone to further infections, and that this cycle of skin inflammation can disrupt the skin microbiome.
“These findings about altered lipid profiles and the link to bacterial infections could be a breakthrough to ultimately help many people who struggle with atopic dermatitis and related skin problems,” lead author Arup Indra, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University, an expert on inflammatory skin disease, said in a press release from the university.
“For the first time we will be able to identify the individual lipids that may be needed to help someone’s skin return to health,” Dr. Indra said. “This may be of value not only to patients with atopic dermatitis or other skin diseases, but even for normal individuals who simply want their skin to be more healthy, well hydrated and resistant to aging.”
In the new procedure, a specially-developed tape is used to pull some lipids from a patient’s skin. The lipid profile can then be analyzed using a mass spectrometer, with the results being compared to the skin lipid profiles of healthy individuals.
The researchers expect this data will allow future investigators to quickly determine if a patient’s skin is deficient in any specific lipids, and from there develop topical compounds to replace them. This might be done on an individual patient basis, or by developing compounds that could help groups of people who share similar lipid profiles.
“This has the potential to remove any guess work that might have existed in the past regarding the correct combination of lipids required to improve skin health,” Dr. Indra said, “and will help restore to people’s skin the right quantity and type of lipids they need.”