Study isolates protein-producing gene that may cause eczema

April 6, 2006

Dundee, Scotland -- A team led by University of Dundee researchers have discovered a gene that causes dry skin, which leads to eczema.

Dundee, Scotland -- A team led by University of Dundee researchers have discovered a gene that causes dry skin, which leads to eczema. The gene produces the protein filaggrin, which helps the skin form a protective outer barrier.

The team -- which conducted the research in collaboration with researchers in Glasgow, Scotland; Dublin, Ireland; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Seattle -- says it hopes to use the discovery for more effective therapies to treat the root causes of the condition, rather than treating the symptoms. Treatment currently is carried out with emollients and ointments or anti-inflammatory drugs.

The research is to be published in the journal Nature Genetics.

According to the study, filaggrin, found in the outermost layers of the skin, keeps bacteria and viruses out while keeping water in, thus preventing skin from drying out. Thus, reduction or absence of the protein leads to dry, flaky skin.

The study showed that about 10 percent of Europeans carry a mutation that switches off the filaggrin gene, causing a very common dry, scaly skin condition known as ichthyosis vulgaris. More than 1 million people are predicted to have the severe form of the condition worldwide.

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