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Tape strips useful to identify biomarkers in skin of young children with atopic dermatitis

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Tape stripping ‘viable and useful’ for pediatric atopic dermatitis studies

Skin biomarkers of atopic dermatitis (AD) are not well studied in children despite the fact that the disease largely affects this age group. Part of the challenge is the difficulty obtaining samples from children because phlebotomy and skin biopsies can cause trauma and anxiety both in children and their guardians. Better, noninvasive sampling techniques are needed.

This and another recent study show that tape stripping achieves skin samples that can provide clinically relevant AD DNA-expression levels and biomarkers that have been shown in multiple other studies – including some AD biomarkers not previously reported. Importantly, these biomarkers distinguish between children with AD and those without, and even between lesional and nonlesional skin.

While it remains to be seen if these biomarkers can predict disease outcomes or response to medication, this study shows that tape stripping in children with AD is a viable and useful method for future studies.

Leslie Castelo-Soccio, MD, PhD, is with the department of dermatology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. These comments are adapted from an accompanying editorial (JAMA Dermatol. 2019 Oct 9. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.2792). No conflicts of interest were reported.



Adhesive tape strips can be used for skin sampling in children with atopic dermatitis (AD) to provide information on biomarkers associated with the disease instead of using tissue biopsies for this purpose, according to a study published online on October 9 in JAMA Dermatology.

Emma Guttman-Yassky, dermatologist, Rockefeller University, Mount Sinai, NYC

“Minimally invasive approaches that accurately capture key immune and barrier biomarkers in the skin of patients with early-onset pediatric AD are needed,” wrote Emma Guttman-Yassky, MD, professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and coauthors. “Because tissue biopsies are considered the criterion standard for evaluating dysregulation in AD lesional and nonlesional skin, it is crucial to understand whether tape-strip profiling can accurately yield key AD-related biomarkers.”

In their cross-sectional study, researchers used large D-Squame tape strips to collect skin samples from 51 children under the age of 5 years (mean, 1.7-1.8 years), including 21 with moderate to severe AD and 30 controls who did not have AD. Samples were collected from lesional skin inside the crook of the elbow and nonlesional skin, on the same arm, then subjected to gene- and protein-expression analysis to identify skin biomarkers of disease.

The participants tolerated the tape stripping well, and there were no clinical effects of the procedure. The authors were able to detect mRNA in 70 of 71 samples.

They then analyzed a panel of 15 cellular markers that assessed markers of monocytes and macrophages, T cells, activated TH2 cells, dendritic cells and dendritic-cell subsets, and Langerhans cells. They found that most showed significant differences between lesional AD skin and normal skin.

They also found that levels of OX40 ligand receptor, a marker associated with atopic dendritic cells, the inducible T-cell costimulatory activation marker, CD209, CD123, and langerin protein, were also significantly higher in nonlesional AD skin.

When comparing lesional and nonlesional skin samples in the AD patients, the authors saw significant differences only in levels of colony-stimulating factor 1 and 2.

The authors noted that some of the mediators detected from the tape-strip samples had not been detected or evaluated in previous studies of the use of tape strips in AD. These included measures of cellular infiltrates, atopic dendritic cells, and key inflammatory markers.

“The novel epidermal cytokines IL [interleukin]–33 and IL-17C, which are currently targeted in clinical trials of patients with AD, were also highlighted as novel tape-strip biomarkers and demonstrated significant correlations with AD severity,” they wrote.

“Because tape stripping is painless, nonscarring, and allows repeated sampling, it may be associated with benefits for longitudinal pediatric studies and clinical trials, in which serial measures are needed to identify predictors of response, course, and comorbidities,” the authors concluded.

The study was supported by the Northwestern University Skin Disease Research Center and the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, and partly by a grant to two authors from Regeneron and Sanofi. Dr. Guttman-Yassky reported receiving grants from Regeneron during the study, and had other disclosures related to multiple pharmaceutical companies. Another author also received grants from Regeneron during the study, and another author had disclosures related to various manufacturers; no disclosures were reported for the remaining authors.

SOURCE: Guttman-Yassky E et al. JAMA Dermatol. 2019 Oct 9. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.2983.

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