Scientists unveil allergy
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Scientists unveil allergy gene
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Scientists unveil allergy gene

British scientists have identified a key gene mutation that more than doubles a persons risk of asthma, hay fever, and eczema.

London, July 10 : British scientists have identified a key gene mutation that more than doubles a person's risk of asthma, hay fever, and eczema.

Health scientist Professor Aziz Sheikh, of the University of Edinburgh, has revealed that the mutation identified by the research team is related to the filaggrin gene, which helps skin produce a protective barrier against the foreign bodies that trigger allergies.

The researcher says that an analysis of 24 previous studies has shown people with defects in this gene are much more likely to develop unwelcome reactions, such as sneezing and itchy eyes, severe dermatitis, asthma, hay fever, and eczema.

Writing about the findings in the British Medical Journal, the researcher further said that the gene mutations were also found to increase the risk of asthma in people with severe dermatitis.

"What we found was a more than doubling in the risk of these allergies among people with this defect. Allergies are becoming a huge problem, particularly in Britain which is top of the league table. It could be environmental factors, including the frequency of bathing and use of soaps and detergents, that have contributed to the rise," the Telegraph quoted Sheikh as saying.

"What's quite striking is the very high proportion of people who are getting eczema, it's an incredibly common disorder, and if the filaggrin gene is the major factor. It may be we can target it with drugs that can repair this protective skin barrier in due course.

"Why eczema is important is increasingly we think eczema is a herald condition for individuals to go on to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever," the researcher added.

While many children grow out of the disease, Aziz points out that some continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.

Prof Sheikh, who advises the Government on allergy issues, said: "These findings provide strong supporting evidence that, at least in a subset of those with allergic problems, the filaggrin gene defect may be the fundamental predisposing factor not only for the development of eczema but also for initial sensitisation and progression of allergic disease. Our finding suggests filaggrin is a robust biomarker for allergic conditions."

The researcher points out that allergic responses are caused when the immune system wrongly identifies allergens-dust mites, pollen, peanuts or cat hair-as being dangerous.

They believe that their findings may pave the way for novel therapies that prevent allergies from reaching epidemic proportions, by stopping the immune system overreacting in this way.

The filaggrin gene defects are carried by more than 10 per cent of the UK population.

Hailing the new findings, Paediatrician Prof Hugo Van Bever, of the National University Singapore, said: "This study represents an important breakthrough in understanding the genetic basis of this complex disorder. The next challenge will be to distinguish different genotypes of allergy, which could revolutionise the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of allergy in children."


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