Scientists have found a genetic defect in mice which leads to allergic inflammation similar to humans with eczema and related allergic diseases.
It is hoped the discovery of the mutations in the filaggrin gene could lead to better treatments for humans who suffer eczema and allergic reactions.
The filaggrin gene produces a protein in the outermost layers of skin, which helps form an impermeable barrier to keep the skin hydrated.
If the same skin barrier on humans is broken, allergens can enter the body where they produce a range of allergic responses such as eczema, asthma and hay fever.
The research, which is published on-line in the international journal Nature Genetics, found that a defect in the filaggrin gene leads to a break in the skin barrier making it more permeable to allergens and more prone to allergic skin inflammation.
The researchers, from the UK and Japan, said: ‘Drugs or other treatments aimed at the filaggrin gene are still some years away but this work is a major step in the right direction and should give hope to those with these distressing conditions.’