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Tape strips used to detect molecular changes in skin of children with eczema

Using non-invasive tape strips in children with eczema, researchers at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago were able to identify molecular signs of immune dysfunction and skin changes that relate to the children’s disease activity even before signs of the disease were visible. The researchers noted that these signs could be used to track disease activity over time.

Results of the study were published online ahead of print in JAMA Dermatology (Oct. 9, 2019).

The study’s authors believe that with further research, these biomarkers also may help predict conditions associated with eczema, such as asthma, other allergies, infections and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“Our study was the most comprehensive to date to demonstrate that tape strips can be used in infants and young children instead of painful biopsies to assess early-onset atopic dermatitis on the molecular level,” said Dr. Amy Paller, a senior author on the study, in a press release. Dr. Paller, who practices at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is also chair of dermatology and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“We found the highest number of atopic dermatitis biomarkers, including new ones, that might be predictors of treatment response, disease progression, and development of comorbid conditions.”

The study looked at 51 children under the age of five years, with 21 children who had moderate to severe atopic dermatitis with onset less than six months previously. Tape strips were collected from the skin with and without lesions in the children who had atopic dermatitis, as well as from the normal skin of children who did not have the condition.

Researchers evaluated gene expression of 77 biomarkers of immune dysfunction and skin barrier changes in children with atopic dermatitis.

“Our findings pave the way for more routine use of tape strips in pediatric longitudinal research and clinical trials for atopic dermatitis,” said Dr. Paller. “Eventually, we hope this technology will become commercially available for use in the clinic.”

Atopic dermatitis is a long-lasting, inflammatory, skin disorder that affects 10 to 20% of children in the United States. Currently, molecular profiling of skin biopsies is standard procedure for evaluating atopic dermatitis.

“In young children, skin biopsies are virtually impossible to perform, even in research, since they are painful and leave scars,” said Dr. Paller. “This reinforced our desire to find a way to evaluate these kids that did not hurt at all.”

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