A protein in our skin may explain why cosmetic products cause rashes – and also potentially provides clues to prevent such reactions.
Annemieke de Jong at Columbia University, New York, and her colleagues wanted to work out why allergens in perfumes, toothpaste and skin creams can trigger an immune response. Through a series of tests, they discovered that many of the allergens activated T-cells of the immune system by interacting with a molecule in skin called CD1a.
“The allergens… reversibly bury themselves within the CD1a lipid molecules,” says de Jong. This then activates T-cells which in turn cause an allergic reaction.
But the reversible nature of the binding suggests allergic reactions could be stopped. “If you could find a way to outcompete these allergens binding to CD1a, there would be no allergic reaction,” says de Jong.
She also adds that it might be possible to find a way to stop T-cell activation in the first place. Though the research was performed in a dish, de Jong says that an obvious next step is to look for a similar response in human skin.
Sara Brown at the University of Dundee in the UK says if these findings translate to clinical use, “it would be a great help to many patients whose skin allergies can currently only be prevented by avoiding what they have become allergic to or using steroids to dampen down the immune response”.
Journal reference: Science Immunology, DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aax5430
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