Gene therapy to cure asthma and eczema!
In a major break through, that has the potential to revolutionarize the treatment of wide spread ailments like asthma and eczema, scientists have managed to identify the mutant gene that causes them, bringing hope of a cure to millions of sufferers who currently rely on drugs that treat only symptoms.
Now, since the underlying gene defect behind these disorders is known, it will be possible to design new more effective therapies to tackle the root cause of the problem, rather than treating the symptoms.
The £100,000 worth research, which was led by a team of scientists at Dundee University, Britain, said the gene they had identified the gene that produces a protein known as filaggrin, which is responsible for preventing skin dryness.
Those people with the mutation in this gene, have a lack of filaggrin in the body. This was the cause of inflamed skin that could develop into eczema. It can also lead to asthma as foreign substances enter the lungs. This has confirmed doctor’s long made common observation over many years suggesting a strong link between eczema, allergies and asthma. Children who have one tend to have the others, and doctors call the combination of symptoms an atopic disease.
The study is based on the fact that, all genes come in pairs, so the degree of disability depends on whether people have a single defective copy or two. While about 10per cent of the population carries a single defective copy and hence has only dry and flaky skin. But those with two defective copies, which is seen in 1 out of every 500 people, make no filaggrin and have a severe and persistent disease called ichthyosis vulgaris.
During the research when the scientists studied various samples, it was discovered that in Ireland, two thirds of children examined with eczema were found to have the mutated gene. While in Denmark, more than 60% of babies carrying the mutated gene developed eczema within the first few years of life.
An enthusiastic Professor McLean, who was one of the leading researchers said, “Analysing this very difficult gene was one of the toughest things we have ever done. Several top genetics labs around the world gave up on it. With a mixture of luck, skill, and an incredibly intense team effort over the last few months, we have succeeded in unlocking the secrets of the gene and discovered a major cause of the disease.”
While discussing the future prospects, he said, "The effect of this discovery is enormous. Treating eczema and asthma is a massive burden on the health service and now we have a chance of preventing them. Several months ago we then talked about it and soon things really exploded. The next stage is to set a target for drug development. That will be even more exciting."
This research brings hope to life of as many as 60 million people worldwide, who are estimated to carry the particular gene defects and more than one million are predicted to have the severe form of eczema as a consequence of the mutation.