Susceptibility Loci for Eczema Paves Way for New Treatments

Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin.

Scientists at the Riken Center for Genomic Medicine, Japan have been successful in identifying 8 new loci which are said to exhibit susceptibility to atopic dermatitis among the Japanese.

The findings of this research were published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Genetics.

Susceptibility Loci for Eczema Paves Way for New Treatments

Atopic Dermatitis – An Introduction

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that affects as many as one-fifth of the children in the industrialized nations today. The symptoms of this condition include a dry, scaly skin that is hypersensitive to climatic changes. The skin is flaky and itchy and many times accompanied by a discharge.

Researchers at the institute have used the GWAS (Genome-Wide Association Study) approach to identify the origin of this condition. This technique is very specific because it identifies the gene loci corresponding to the trait in question. And since eczema is a genetic condition, this method is more suited for its study. This is the first of its kind study to be done for the Japanese population.

Hence, the scientists conducted an in depth GWAS analysis on a sample size of 1472 participants affected by atopic dermatitis and employed 7971 subjects as controls. Validation was done separately on a different group of 1856 dermatitis patients and 7021 controls. The study involved analyzing more than 600,000 genetic variants, which led to the resultant 8 new genetic regions (loci) responsible for the disease condition in question.

Results of the GWAS Study

Apart from discovery of the 8 new loci responsible for atopic eczema among the Japanese, the study also substantiates the following findings:

  1. The variants were found on the HLA loci and some IL (inter leukin) loci. This finding is very useful because both these loci have been found to be associated with another common condition – bronchial asthma.
  2. The finding shows that both the asthma and dermatitis have overlapping regions of susceptibility which indicates that these regions are important to the cause of allergic diseases.
  3. The discovery of these susceptibility regions in the genes of the affected individuals is very helpful to drug discovery.  New drugs to alter the genetic expression of these regions can be developed that will help bring immediate and lasting relief to those suffering from a range of allergic conditions including atopic dermatitis.

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