Skin

Updated 22 October 2015

Researchers identify new genes linked to eczema

New gene variants associated with the skin condition eczema have been identified by an international team of researchers.

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Eczema, characterised by itchy, red rashes, is known to run in families. The new findings add to the number of genetic variants known to increase risk for the condition, making the total 31.

The researchers did this by analysing the genomes (genetic makeup) of 377,000 people worldwide.

"Though the genetic variants identified in this current study represent only a small proportion of the risk for developing eczema ... they do give new insights into important disease mechanisms," said study leader Lavinia Paternoster, an epidemiologist at the University of Bristol in England.

"Through ongoing research in this area, these findings could be turned into treatments of the future," she said in a university news release.

Read: Taking the itch out of eczema

All of the newly identified genetic changes play a role in immune system regulation and offer potential targets for scientists exploring new treatments for eczema, the study authors said.

The team of investigators also found evidence of some genetic overlap between eczema and other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. This suggests that studying these diseases together could improve understanding of the disorders and possibly lead to new treatments, the researchers said.

Study co-author Dr. Sara Brown, an academic dermatologist at the University of Dundee in Scotland, said, "The very large numbers of participants in this research has allowed us to 'fine-tune' our understanding of eczema genetic risk, providing more detail on how the skin immune system can go wrong in eczema."

Read more:

Here's a natural approach to skin problems.

Warning about toxic face creams in Cape Town

Expert advises busy parents to check for skin cancer

Image: Eczema on a hand from iStock

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Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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