A noninvasive method for quantifying and distinguishing inflammatory skin reactions

J Am Acad Dermatol. 1999 Nov;41(5 Pt 1):687-92. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(99)70002-2.


Background: The ribonuclease protection assay (RPA) represents a technology that allows detection of small amounts of intact RNA. Recent progress in understanding cytokine networks in the skin suggests that measurements of cytokine mRNA levels could provide a method to distinguish various reactions such as irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis that can occur in the skin.

Objective: We attempted to differentiate and quantitate irritant and immunologic skin reactions by measuring mRNA levels.

Methods: We have used the technique of tape stripping human skin to remove superficial cell layers and have extracted RNA from these skin samples. This RNA was used for RPA analysis.

Results: By means of RPA analysis, we have demonstrated distinct cytokine profiles that appear to discriminate, for example, irritant from immunologic skin reactions.

Conclusion: We have shown that multiple cytokine mRNA levels can be defined in these RNA samples obtained from the skin. This approach assesses not only the cytokine gene profiles, but at the same time may quantify the severity of common irritant versus allergic skin reactions.

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / immunology
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / immunology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis


  • Cytokines
  • RNA, Messenger