Prof. Martin Steinhoff presenting the itch project to international EB researchers
Prof. Martin Steinhoff presenting the itch project to international EB researchers

DEBRA Ireland has embarked on funding an exciting new research project with big potential to make a difference to the lives of people with EB. This project will investigate the causes and potential solutions to itch in EB. It will be led by a world leader in itch, Professor Martin Steinhoff, the Director of the Charles Institute of Dermatology in UCD.

While we perhaps more often associate EB with pain, numerous studies have shown that for many people with EB, itch is one of the greatest challenges. It stops them sleeping at night, results in further damage to the skin and the constant need to scratch can be socially awkward. Despite it having such a negative impact on quality of life, very little research has focused on what causes itch in EB and how best to treat it.

We are familiar with the notion that different types of pain need different medications. For instance, you might take paracetamol for a headache but ibuprofen for an inflamed joint. Well, similarly in itch, different pathways can be triggered, that require different drugs to block them. We know for example that anti-histamines are relatively ineffective in treating itch in EB but finding the right drug can be difficult. The purpose of us funding this study is to understand which pathways are responsible for the misery caused by itch in EB and how we can best treat the problem.

The initiation of this project is the result of many years of discussions with UCD, to ensure a focus on EB in the world-class Charles Institute of Dermatology. Along the way, DEBRA Ireland Chair, Colm Darling was appointed to the Board of the Charles Institute and EB researcher, Dr. Wenxin Wang and his team moved to the Institute. This new research has already generated huge interest internationally and DEBRA UK has kindly agreed to fund the first year of the project.

We would like to welcome Martin and his team into the EB community and wish them every success with their work. They have partnered with Dr. Rosemarie Watson, Dr. Fiona Browne and Dr. Jemima Mellerio for the clinical aspects of this research; all of whom will add enormous value to the project. The study will run for three years.

Read more about Prof. Martin Steinhoff’s work on itch in this Irish Times article.