Better acne treatments may be in our genes

Acne is a dreaded rite of passage for many teenagers. But future generations could avoid this miserable experience, thanks to new genetic variants associated with acne that scientists say may hold the key to developing better treatments.

“Although there are appropriate treatments for acne, there is no treatment that works for everyone, and some people can develop serious side effects to certain treatments,” says researcher Miguel Rentería, PhD. at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane. , Australia, and co-author of a new study exploring genetic links to acne.

Some parents of teens may recall that the acne treatment Accutane (isotretinoin) was linked to miscarriages and serious birth defects in the 1980s. And other acne medications, such as topical corticosteroids and benzoyl peroxide, can cause allergic reactions, including skin irritation, blistering, and open sores.

Genetic data collected from more than 600,000 people worldwide

The new study, published in February 2022 in Nature Communicationlooked at genetic data collected from more than 20,000 people with acne worldwide, as well as more than 595,000 people without skin conditions.

Scientists have identified 29 new genetic variants associated with acne. They also confirmed 14 of the 17 variants previously linked to the skin condition.

Many genes identified as common in people with acne are also associated with other skin and hair conditions, scientists have reported. This could help researchers get a clearer picture of what causes acne, which could help them find better treatments.

More genetic risk, more likelihood of severe flare-ups

The researchers also found that people with the highest genetic risk for acne were more prone to severe breakouts. While more research is needed to confirm this finding, scientists say it could help identify people at risk for severe acne, allowing them to get preventative treatment before breakouts break out.

“Whether or not a person has acne, and how severe it is, depends on a combination of factors, including differences in genetic predisposition, lifestyle, and even environmental elements, such as climate and pollution,” says Dr Rentería.

Genetic factors can explain up to 80% of differences in acne risk, he adds.

This means understanding which genetic variants are linked to acne will go a long way to developing better treatments, the researchers say.

New treatments are still a long way off

But today’s teenagers may very well have children of their own before the development of new acne therapies targeting specific genetic variants begins.

“Our study provides the first insights into the causal biology that I am confident will spark interest and investment in the development of new acne treatments,” says Michael Simpson, PhD, professor of genetics at King’s College of London and lead author of the new acne study. to study.

“Hopefully we’ll start to see the development of the next generation of acne treatments within the next 10 years,” he says.

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