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Gene Variation Increases Risk of Atopic Dermatitis

Posted: April 30, 2009

By discovering how a gene variation can lead to an increased risk of atopic dermatitis, scientists are now trying to develop a better treatment—and prevention—method for the chronic skin disease.

Scientists of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Charité – University Medical School, Berlin, Germany, in collaboration with researchers from the Klinikum rechts der Isar of Technical University Munich and Christian Albrecht University, Kiel, have identified a gene variant on chromosome 11 that is associated with an increased risk of atopic dermatitis.

In a large genome-wide association study the researchers scanned the genomes of more than 9,600 participants from Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. "Our findings cast new light on the pathogenesis of the disease," said Professor Young-Ae Lee of Charité and MDC. The pediatrician-researcher and her collaborators hope the study will lead to a new approach to targeted therapy for this chronic skin disorder.

More and more people suffer from atopic dermatitis, which is also known as atopic or infantile eczema. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that typically affects the large flexures such as the bend of the elbows or the back of the knees. Patients suffer from recurrent flares of intense itching, dryness and redness of the skin, with weeping of clear fluid in the acute stage, and skin-thickening in the chronic stage. Along with hay fever and asthma, atopic dermatitis is one of the most common allergic disorders. In the industrialized countries about 15% of young children are affected.