Discovered: The Eczema Gene
Scientists have discovered a gene that promotes itching – and that could represent a new target for treatment of skin disorders such as eczema.
In a paper published June 11 in the journal Neuron, researchers at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the University of California, Berkeley said they have identified a serotonin receptor, HTR7, as a key factor in eczema and other forms of itch.
Eczema, which affects up to 10 percent of the population worldwide, is a debilitating condition characterized by intense itching, dry flaky skin and a red rash. The condition is incurable, and treatments are often ineffective.
In a mouse model, the researchers said, the loss of the HTR7 gene led to significantly less scratching and less severe skin lesions. “We are really excited about these results. The dramatic decrease in itching suggests that HTR7 may represent a new drug target for chronic itch,” said neuroscientist Diana Bautista, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and a member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley.
Chronic itch can also stem from conditions such as kidney failure, cirrhosis and some cancers, and the discovery could help in treatments for those illnesses as well.