Oh dear…what is that? Seeing (and feeling) a rash-riddled arm at 2 o’clock in the morning can be alarming. And turning to Dr. Smartphone Google adds even greater urgency to the fear: A rash can reflect a large number of conditions, from very serious to very mild. Even legit doctors have a tough time deciding which is which.

For example, it turns out that psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis all present similar symptoms, which can make getting an accurate diagnosis – and treatment decision – difficult at best (Wang et al., 2017). A team of researchers from MedImmune, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Rockefeller University decided to try and fix that problem by testing the feasibility of developing a non-invasive test to differentiate between the different skin conditions and get the right individualized treatment sooner (Wang et al., 2017). Though previous genomic and transcriptomic analyses of skin biopsies have been informative, the team reasoned that proteomics may provide a better “real-time view” into the skin issues.

To put their hypothesis to the test, the researchers used SomaLogic® technology to measure the levels of proteins in serum samples from patients that had psoriasis, atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis. Compared to healthy individuals, the researchers found 66 proteins that changed significantly in one of the three disease states. In other words, each type of rash could be diagnosed based on different protein changes. Interestingly, the researchers did find similar protein changes common to all three conditions, suggesting some shared biology.

As exciting as this news is that there is a possible basis in protein changes for making a definitive test for determining to determine the identity of the rash – and treat it effectively – is just beyond on the horizon, the researchers caution that the work is still very preliminary. But it does suggest a future where the rash decisions of Dr. Smartphone Google are less likely to make things scarier than they are.

 

References

Wang, J., Suarez-Farinas, M., Estrada, Y., Parker, M. L., Greenlees, L., Stephens, G., . . . Howell, M. D. (2017). Identification of unique proteomic signatures in allergic and non-allergic skin disease. Clin Exp Allergy, 47(11), 1456-1467. doi:10.1111/cea.12979