Medical researchers reviewed scientific progress in understanding the potential causes and other aspects of rosacea during a recent research workshop conducted by the National Rosacea Society. The well-attended session was held during the annual meeting of the Society for Investigative Dermatology to stimulate further rosacea research and broaden awareness of research grants now available from the National Rosacea Society.
"It is really astounding how little research has been done in the past on rosacea, considering how common it is and how much impact it has on people's lives," said Dr. Frank Powell of Misericordiae Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, a leading researcher on the condition. "Learning more about the potential causes of rosacea and further defining its various symptoms should provide the basis for developing important advances in its treatment and potential prevention."
While this chronic disorder is estimated to affect as many as 13 million people in the United States alone, its cause is unknown and current therapy is limited to controlling its symptoms.
The National Rosacea Society issued the first grants last fall as part of its new research grants program, funded by individual donations. Readers are encouraged to send tax-deductible contributions to the Research Grants Program.
Dr. Marita Kosmadaki, a research fellow in the Department of Dermatology, Boston University, reported interim results of the society-funded study, "The Role of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in Rosacea Development."
The study hypothesized that a natural substance in the body called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which has a potent effect on blood vessels, may be associated with the development of rosacea by abnormally affecting facial blood supply.
Study results thus far show that after irradiation of the skin with ultraviolet light -- also present in sunlight -- VEGF appears to increase in the skin, where it might affect blood vessels. Endothelial cells, which line the blood and lymph vessels, also appear to be more susceptible to VEGF after exposure to ultraviolet light.
Dr. Kosmadaki concluded that in rosacea-prone individuals, the effects of the sun on epidermal VEGF may lead to persistent redness and the development of telangiectasia, the visible dilated blood vessels that are a common symptom of rosacea.
Dr. Robert A. Swerlick, associate professor of dermatology at Emory University, reported interim results of a society-funded study on whether decreased expression of the endoglin gene may cause telangiectasia. To date, his research team has eliminated heat exposure -- often a trigger for rosacea symptoms -- as a factor, and further study is under way to assess other factors that may decrease endoglin expression.