Sheffield study of newborn babies seeks to prevent eczema

A new Sheffield study in collaboration between two universities will seek to understand how our skin develops from birth in the hopes of preventing conditions such as eczema.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 10:16 am
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 10:20 am

The University of Sheffield and the University of Manchester will follow 175 newborn babies during their first year of life to identify those with a high risk of developing eczema to improve standards of neonatal skincare

The Skin Testing for atopic eczema risk (STAR) study will monitor them to see how their skin matures and identify which of them are most at risk of developing eczema.

Researchers will monitor this using specialist, non-invasive fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy technology – used to study and understand the chemical and surface chemistry in various types of membrane such as skin – which has been provided by research, development and manufacturing company Agilent.

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The collaborative study between the University of Sheffield and the University of Manchester seeks to help prevent skin conditions such as eczema

Dr Simon Danby, the lead researcher of the STAR study and Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield, said: “A growing body of evidence suggests a critical role for the skin barrier in the development and course of atopic eczema.

“A greater understanding of the skin we are born with prevents eczema means we will be able to identify susceptible individuals early on, and enable novel therapeutic options to improve standards of neonatal skincare and prevent clinical eczema development.”

In the UK alone, one in five children and one in 12 adults have atopic eczema, is a long-lasting condition that is common in children. It makes the skin red and itchy and tends to flare periodically.

“Following birth our skin takes a number of years to mature before it gives us the protection we need from our environment, but without adequate protection our bodies are exposed to irritants, allergens and bacteria that can trigger a range of skin problems including eczema,” Dr Danby added.

“The early identification of high-risk babies opens up the opportunity to prevent eczema development, and could potentially prevent the development of other allergies too.”

It is hoped the research learnings will also provide the opportunity for the medical community to diagnose skin conditions as early as possible, helping them to administer the right care and promote effective management of conditions like eczema.