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Scope 49 - Scratching the surface of the Th2 immune response

2 November 2012

The skin is a unique organ in that it interfaces directly with both the immune system and the external environment.

On a daily basis our skin is exposed to bacteria, fungi and viruses, as well as a multitude of potential allergens – basically anything we touch has the potential to evoke an immune response. Fortunately for most of us, the protective barrier function of the skin stops this from happening.

Allergic reactions in the skin are normally associated with eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis – a dry and scaly rash that can be unbearably itchy. House dust mites, moulds and animal dander can all trigger eczema in sensitised children. Eczema symptoms can also indicate the presence of an underlying food allergy.

Recently, several candidate immune signaling proteins called cytokines have been proposed as the link between allergens, the skin epithelium and the development of the allergic immune response. One molecule in particular, called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), has been identified as playing a significant role in driving the development of allergic disease in humans.

Allergic & Parasitic Diseases PhD student Sotaro Ochiai is using novel disease models and flow cytometry techniques to investigate how TSLP instructs dendritic cells to activate naïve T cells and initiate the Th2 immune response.

This knowledge will help us determine if TSLP is a potential target for therapies aimed at treating and preventing eczema, and other allergic diseases.


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