Published: 29-05-2024 08:38 | Updated: 30-05-2024 09:10

New IMM thesis on contact eczema

Welcome to Paulina Werners defense of the thesis ”Exploring allergic and irritant contact dermatitis : biomarkers, mechanisms, and allergen uptake".

Paulina Werner, IMM

Time: May 31, 13.00 PM
Location: Lecture hall Andreas Vesalius, Karolinska Institutet, Solna
Supervisor: Nanna Fyhrquist, Principal researcher, Institutet för miljömedicin (IMM), Karolinska Institutet
Opponent: Prof. Charlotte Menné Bonefeld, Department of Immunology and Microbiology, University of Copenhagen 
Link to Zoom:

Three questions to Paulina

What is the thesis about?

Contact dermatitis, also known as contact eczema, is a common skin disease that greatly affects the well-being of affected patients. There are two main types of the disease, allergic and irritant contact dermatitis. Despite different causes and mechanisms, these two forms of contact eczema can give rise to similar symptoms, which may hamper the clinical diagnosis. There are few effective treatment strategies for contact dermatitis, that rely heavily on avoidance of triggering exposures. The thesis investigates the molecular patterns of contact dermatitis to identify potential biomarkers to distinguish between allergic and irritant contact dermatitis, increase our understanding of course of the disease and its pathomechanisms, as well as highlight potentially hazardous exposures. 

Can you tell us about some of the results?

Using a machine learning-based algorithm, 28 potential biomarker sets consisting of 2-3 genes were identified that could distinguish between allergic and irritant contact dermatitis with high accuracy. The identified markers could be measured in all degrees of inflammation, and were reproducible in an independent patient group and in two external datasets. We also noted that natural killer (NK) cells seem to be specifically recruited to the skin in allergic contact dermatitis but not during skin irritation, which may be a distinguishing feature between these two types of inflammation. One of the studies in the thesis investigated the presence of dysregulated microRNAs, which are important regulators of the cellular gene expression, and the result revealed several microRNAs that may be of great importance for the gene regulation in contact eczema. The thesis also highlights the hazards of exposure to cobalt nanoparticles for individuals with contact allergy to cobalt. 

What further research is needed in this area?

Although our results show great potential for the development of a new diagnostic method based on the identified biomarkers, more extensive clinical validation and technical optimization of the method is required to achieve sufficient cost-effectiveness and speed for clinical purposes. More research is also needed that focuses on understanding more about the cells recruited to the skin during allergic and irritant eczema, to identify potential therapeutic and diagnostic targets for the development of new treatments and diagnostics. The microRNAs identified in the thesis also need to be mechanistically validated to increase our understanding of their involvement in allergic inflammation. More knowledge about cobalt nanoparticles, but also other types of metal-based nanoparticles, and their local effects in the skin is also needed for future risk assessments of exposure to metal-based nanoparticles.

Read the thesis