14 Nov 2016

New Finding - Better Understanding the Poison Ivy Rash

  • Urushiol = compound responsible for the itchy skin rash (allergic contact dermatitis) resulting from a close encounter with poison ivy
  • Cases of poison ivy rash are increasing worldwide as the plant expands its range and grows larger - this seems to be due to the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • By applying urushiol to mice to give them a poison ivy rash and then looking closely at what happened in their skin, researchers found that levels of a cytokine (a protein used by cells to communicate with one another) called IL-33 increased as the rash developed
  • IL-33 sticks to a protein called ST2 found in skin nerve cells (primary sensory neurons), bringing about a rash
  • Researchers were able to influence how itchy the rash was by blocking IL-33 or ST2 (which reduced scratching and inflammation) or injecting IL-33 into the skin of mice with the rash (which led to much more scratching)
  • In the future, we might be able to target IL-33/ST2 with drugs to limit the itchy rash caused by poison ivy
PNAS - IL-33/ST2 Signaling Excites Sensory Neurons and Mediates Itch Response in a Mouse Model of Poison Ivy Contact Allergy

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