Discovery of dry skin gene could lead to new treatments

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dry skin, Skin

Scientists at the University of Dundee say they have discovered the
gene that causes dry skin, something that could lead to a marked
turn around in a host of treatments for related conditions.

Dry skin is said to be a problem for a significant number of the population, affecting approximately one in ten people of occidental origin. One of the most acute side affects of the condition is eczema, which is currently estimated to affect 4 per cent of the population.

The Dundee research team says that its work has discovered the gene that produces filaggrin, which helps the skin form a protective barrier.

Filaggrin is normally found in large quantities in the outermost layers of the skin and is an essential part of the skin barrier function, helping to retain water and moisturizing properties, as well as keeping foreign organisms and bacteria out.

Without this protective barrier, the skin dries out more easily, making it more susceptible to damage and even infections. Sufferers from eczema sufferers and other dry skin conditions often have painful chapped skin, which can bleed and lead to unsightly wounds.

The Scottish experts say that the discovery should help them tackle the root cause of the problem, as opposed to just treating the symptoms, and could ultimately lead to more targeted treatment of the condition in specific individuals.

The research, which was led by Professor Irwin McLeod and Dr Frances Smith, who, through the study, discovered a link between the dry skin condition ichthyosis vulgaris, eczema and asthma, once the skin cell gene was identified.

Further research in Europe found that two-thirds of Irish children with eczema were found to carry one of more filaggrin mutations, while a study of Scottish children found that the mutation had a direct bearing on the incidence of those suffering from eczema and asthma simultaneously.

Ultimately the Dundee group says that further testing of the presence of different filaggrin mutations in other ethnic populations has proved that reduction or absence of filaggrin in the skin is likely to be a major cause of dry skin and eczema worldwide.

Further research is now expected to be carried out to find out how the isolation of the gene mutation will affect future treatment of both dry skin conditions and asthma.

Currently the only treatment for dry skin conditions are through a wide range of medical and non-medical ointments and emollients, together with anti inflammatory drugs.

Virtually every skin care provider has a range of topical treatments for dry skin and its related conditions, making it by far the most popular dedicated skin care treatment. If the gene discovery is anything to go by this could have a major impact on the category.

Related topics: Formulation & Science, Skin Care

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