Biologics are proving to be a big breakthrough in medical science. They are genetically-engineered proteins derived from human genes. Specifically, they are designed to inhibit parts of the immune system that encourage inflammation. Now, biologic technology is being put to good use in order to help the more than 30 million eczema sufferers in the US.
Just a few days ago, the FDA approved a new biologic called Dupixent, and for the first time, it treats the underlying causes of eczema — not just the symptoms. For those that have any experience of how debilitating this disease can be, this self-administered injection could prove to be life changing.
The injection delivers an antibody designed to slow the overactive communication of two proteins (IL-4 and IL-13) and by blocking them, prevents them from binding to cell receptors. As a result, Dupixent calms a hyperactive immune system and lowers inflammation. In clinical trials, more than half of patients who used 300 mg of Dupixent every two weeks with no other forms of treatment saw a 75 percent or greater reduction in the severity of their symptoms.
As a sufferer of mild bouts of eczema and coming from a family whose members’ adult lives (my mother) and childhoods (my nieces) have been rendered miserable by chronically itchy skin, this all looks very exciting. This experience has made me a tireless researcher for beauty products that don’t exacerbate skin and some that can even help it. I look out for soothing ingredients such as milk thistle and chamomile (TIA community members like Ayelet Lavender Chamomile Calming Face Toner, $32; in the shop), gentle exfoliators and for modern, mild forms of heavy-hitters that have traditionally been irritating — think vitamin C and retinol.
Biologics also got me thinking about inflammation and aging. Science has turned a corner with new thinking on treating inflammatory diseases such as asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and rheumatoid arthritis. Although very different, it was found that they could be treated in the same way by modifying the immune response. Although there is no anti-aging injection yet, we can treat our skin with antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory ingredients (these details will be the subject of a future post).