New anti-dandruff approaches may be derived from an increased understanding of the organism, according to researchers. The fungus, Malassezia globosa (M. globosa), lives on human skin and feeds off external lipids secreted naturally in sebum on the scalp. Symptoms of dandruff occur when the presence of sebum, and M. globosa are combined with the hosts susceptibility for an inflammatory response. Current anti-dandruff treatments contain anti-fungal ingredients however an understanding of the genome may point to better, more effective treatment options, say the researchers. CosmeticsDesign spoke to Dr Charles Saunders, one of the authors of the report who explained that the genome reveals many enzymes that the fungus produces and secretes, that could affect human skin. "Some of the enzymes are proteases that could degrade skin proteins. Others are lipases and phospholipases that hydrolyze lipids and generate fatty acids. "As we gain more information about the relative importance of these different enzymes, we may try to stop the production of these enzymes or stop their enzymatic activity" said Dr Saunders. The increased knowledge of the mechanism and the fungus itself will lead to a more accurate, targeted approach to dandruff treatment, according to scientists. In contrast to the 'trial and error' style that has been employed in the past. In recent years the market for anti-dandruff shampoos has developed enormously, providing a significant opportunity for new formulae. What was once a category dominated by just a handful of brands has emerged as a highly segmented and diverse growth category. Figures from Mintel show that the number of anti-dandruff shampoos launched on the European market over the past four years has continued to rise steadily. In 2002 the number of launches stood at 56, whereas by 2006 that figure stood at 111, an increase of 98 per cent. The researchers believe that the sequencing of the M. globosa genome may have much wider implications than originally thought. Other types of fungi in the same family have been found to be particularly threatening to individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with autoimmune diseases. Increased knowledge of a member of this family could be of benefit to these more serious conditions. "A complete genomic sequencing of a Malassezia genome opens tremendous opportunities for researchers to understand the interactions of fungi and humans" said Dr Thomas Dawson, principal author of the study. In addition, close relatives of M. globosa include a family of fungi that cause diseases on corn, wheat, and other food crops, and further studies have now been launched in the hope of finding ways to manage these diseases.