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Gene Found for Eczema - May Lead to Therapies for Cause of Dry Skin - Not just Treatments for Symptoms

March 20th 2006

Gene Found for Eczema - May Lead to Therapies for Cause of Dry Skin - Not just Treatments for Symptoms


Up until now, eczema therapies involved treating the symptoms.  This may change soon due to research led by the University of Dundee in Scotland, where they have discovered the gene which causes dry, scaly skin.  The dry skin can lead to eczema and asthma, according to researchers. 

The gene produces a protein called filaggrin which helps keep the skin protected by forming an outer barrier.  It is hoped that this finding will lead to a therapy of the underlying condition that causes dry skin and eczema.  Most current therapies involve ointments to treat dry skin and anti-inflammatory drugs to treat eczema. 

The filaggrin protein is usually found in the outermost layers of skin.  In people that are not affected by dry skin, this protein is abundant.  The protein also helps form a skin barrier keeping the water in, but in absence allows the skin to dry out. When the skin dries out, it may begin to flake off as well. 


The barrier may help prevent disease.  According to the researchers, “As well as keeping water in, the skin barrier normally keeps foreign substances out of the skin. In people with filaggrin mutations, foreign substances can easily enter the skin and be seen by the immune system.”   The researchers speculate that this failure in the immune system could lead to asthma. 

There is a more common, less damaging skin condition.  A milder form of Ichthyosis Vulgaris causes dry flaky skin in about 50% of the population.  Only 1 in 500 people produce no filaggrin.  These individuals have a severe and persistent form of the disease, often requiring specialist treatment.

According to researcher Professor Irwin McLean, of Dundee University's human genetics department, the gene has been known for about for 20 years.  Up until now the researchers have not been able to analyze it.  He said “We see this as the dawn of a new era in the understanding and treatment of eczema and the type of asthma that goes with eczema as well.” 


The research, to be published in the journal Nature Genetics, was undertaken with collaborators in Glasgow, Dublin, Seattle and Copenhagen.

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By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer

Books on Skin

Keywords and misspellings:  eczma exema ezcema eczima

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:50 PM