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Can Tape Strips Detect Abnormalities in AD Skin?

A recent study showed minimally invasive tape strips can be used to characterize immune and epidermal barrier biomarkers of children with early-onset atopic dermatitis (AD).

“Molecular profiling of skin biopsies is the criterion standard for evaluating the cutaneous AD phenotype,” the researchers said. “However, skin biopsies are not always feasible in children.”

They assessed the ability of tracking cutaneous disease with tape strips, which is a minimally invasive approach that could serve as a surrogate to whole-tissue biopsies. Sixteen tape strips were serially collected from lesional and nonlesional skin of 21 children with AD and normal skin of 30 children without AD. Main outcomes included gene and protein expression, which were evaluated using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry.
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Overall, 77 out of 79 evaluated immune and barrier gene products were detected in 70 tape strips out of 71. Fifty-three of the 79 markers differentiated between children with lesions and nonlesional AD from children without AD, the researchers said.

Compared with tape strips of normal skin, tape strips of AD skin showed significant increases in many cellular markers of T cells, AD-related dendritic cells, and key inflammatory, innate, and helper T cell 2 genes. “For example, IL-4 mean (SE) for lesional was −15.2 (0.91) and normal was −19.5 (0.48),” the researchers said.

In addition, the researchers observed parallel decreases in epidermal barrier gene products and negative immune regulators. “For example, the decrease for FLG lesional was mean (SE) −2.9 (0.42) and for normal was 2.2 (0.45),” the researchers said. They also found associations between disease severity or transepidermal water loss and TH2 and TH17/TH22 products in lesional and nonlesional AD skin.

“In this study, tape strips provide a minimally invasive alternative for serially evaluating AD-associated cutaneous biomarkers and may prove useful for tracking pediatric AD therapeutic response and predicting future course and comorbidities,” the researchers concluded.


Guttman-Yassky E, Diaz A, Pavel AB, et al. Use of tape strips to detect immune and barrier abnormalities in the skin of children with early-onset atopic dermatitis [published online October 09, 2019]. JAMA Dermatol. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.2983

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