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Weekly Eczema News Report 12/20/2022: VR skin simulation, dopamine microbiota, gut inflammation and Black Plague immunity.

As we move closer to the holidays, medical science and technology are giving us some intriguing new findings to unwrap! A sleek, new skin stimulation system can bring a more realistic sense of touch to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences. Topical treatment with vitamin D3 shows promise in preventing cancers caused by arsenic poisoning. Researchers in Germany have begun to investigate the so-called “gut-brain axis” and the role gut microbiota might play in diseases of the digestive and nervous systems. In related news, bacteria give us a handy excuse for our lack of exercise. People with autoimmune disorders may have a genetic variant that allowed their ancestors to survive the Plague. Finally, a new monoclonal antibody treatment for atopic dermatitis may soon be available to patients who didn’t respond to Dupilumab. 



Virtual Reality: Bringing Skin To Life

 

While VR and AR have become more and more realistic visually, a realistic sense of touch has eluded these simulations. The WeTac, developed by engineers at City University of Hong Kong, offers greater tactile stimulation for VR simulations. The WeTac is a relatively sleek hydrogel “skin” that uses electronic currents to simulate a wide range of tactile sensations to the hand. Better still, the WeTac maps out individual responses to the stimuli so that it can adjust for variations in how users experience tactile stimuli.  

 

Positive News On Carcinogenic Affects


This week’s news is more than fun and games. Did you know that millions of people worldwide drink water contaminated by arsenic? Arsenic is a carcinogen, and repeated exposure to this heavy metal can cause skin cancer. Researchers at Tokyo’s Shibaura Institute of Technology recently discovered that taking activated vitamin D3 may provide protection against arsenic’s carcinogenic effects. This is cause for (cautious) celebration for the estimated 140 million people worldwide who cannot avoid the arsenic in their water supplies. 


Could inflammation in the central nervous system begin with the gut? 

Over the last few years, there has been increasing interest in the gut microbiome, especially its possible relationship to functions of the brain and central nervous system. The so-called “gut-brain axis” is now being investigated by researchers in Germany, who hope to find a link between bacteria in the digestive system and inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system. This is an ambitious study which could help us better understand the relationship between the microbiome and inflammation and could also provide insight into degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis. 


No motivation to exercise? Blame it on bacteria! 

The gut microbiome is in the spotlight this week, proving that this is microbiota’s world and we just live in it. If you’re thinking of adding exercise to your list of New Year’s resolutions next month, you might want to consider what the bacteria in your digestive system have to say about it. Results of a study published this week in Nature indicate that bacteria in the gut facilitate the production of dopamine during exercise. Researchers say that the absence of these bacteria could explain why some people do not get the little rush of dopamine that makes exercise rewarding for others. 

 

The Black Plague: Immunity


In yet another illustration of how bacteria influence our health, genetics research in Europe has found a link between autoimmune disorders and increased immunity to the Black Plague. Variants on genes associated with the function of macrophages, immune system cells responsible for antigen presentation, seem to have conferred immunity against y. Pestis, the bacterium that caused the Black Plague. Those same variations are found in people with autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s Disease. 

 

Dupilumab and Atopic Dermatitis


Dupilumab, a monoclonal antibody treatment, has successfully treated atopic dermatitis for people who did not respond to other treatments. Researchers in Europe recently stated that it showed a high success rate with few adverse effects for children with the disorder. Unfortunately, not all atopic dermatitis sufferers respond to Dupilumab–ASLAN Pharmaceuticals hope to offer an alternative. The company announced this week that it had begun the first human trials for its own monoclonal antibody treatment, Eblasakimab. ASLAN representatives say they expect the trials to show that Eblasakimab is a safe and effective alternative for people who were not successfully treated with Dupilumab. 


The news this week might not be entirely festive, but it all represents some significant strides in our understanding of our health. Some of the discoveries we’ve glanced at this week have implications that are worth celebrating! 

 

- Zula Elwood