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When our protective armor shows weakness
Date:8/1/2008

New knowledge points to the fact that a genetically induced lack of filaggrin, a key protein of the skin barrier, plays a decisive role in the origin of allergies. In a large study on more than 3000 school-children scientists of the Helmholtz Zentrum Mnchen and the Technische Universitt Mnchen found that about 8% of the German population carry variations of the filaggrin gene, which raise the risk to develop atopic dermatitis more than threefold. In addition, these genetic variations predispose to hay fever and asthma in those with atopic dermatitis.

Allergic diseases have increased considerably in the past decades in most industrial countries. A combination of genetic and environmentally related factors is said to be the cause. In recent years, several genes were examined for a role in allergic diseases, and one of them actually turned out to be a key player. This gene encodes filaggrin, an essential protein in the horny layer of the skin. If this protein is reduced or lacking due to a genetic defect, the natural cornification is impeded and the natural barrier function of the skin is limited.

In 2006 filaggrin mutations could be identified as cause of the so-called fish scale disease or ichthyosis vulgaris, and as risk factors for the development of atopic dermatitis, a genetic breakthrough made by the Irish research team around Irwin McLean and Alan Irvine.

In an international collaboration, Dr. Stephan Weidinger from the Technische Universitt Mnchen and Dr. Thomas Illig from the Helmholtz Zentrum Mnchen now investigated 3,000 school children, representing the population as a whole. The study was carried out together with Dr. Michael Kabesch of the Children's Hospital of the Kudwig-Maximilians-University Munich. The Munich scientists found that almost 8% of the children in Germany suffer from a genetically determined deficiency of filaggrin protein in the skin. These children have a more than threefold increased risk to develop ato
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Contact: Thomas Illig
illig@helmholtz-muenchen.de
0049-893-187-4249
Helmholtz Zentrum Mnchen - German Research Center for Environmental Health
Source:Eurekalert

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