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News & Views October 2018 Issue

Progress in Treating Skin Disease

Some dogs suffer from a genetically inherited skin condition called ichthyosis. They are born with the disease, and the skin becomes drier, scalier-looking, and more prone to infections with age. That’s because the skin barrier — the body’s envelope — breaks down and loses its ability to keep out foreign substances. (The disease strikes people, too. Infants who have it usually develop abnormal-looking skin within the first year of life.)

Treatment has been a sort of Band-Aid approach, with medicated shampoos and such that tend to symptoms. But now, those with dogs who have at least one form of the condition can take hope that the disease will be able to be controlled at its root. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and several other institutions of higher learning both in the US and Europe, in conjunction with a Korean firm called Neopharm, have developed a topical treatment that can help reconstitute a specific fat in the skin needed to keep foreign substances out and water in. In dogs with the disease, that fatty part of the “envelope” is lacking, or deranged, and the skin can’t do its job properly.

The researchers, reporting in the American Journal of Pathology, say that the topical lotion only made the skin look somewhat better. Toxic metabolites kept forming despite the repair. But the new lotion is an important first step in making the skin work properly again. Stay tuned.

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