FEB 16, 2022 3:00 PM PST

Genome-wide association study increases understanding of the genetic basis of acne

WRITTEN BY: J. Bryce Ortiz

Acne vulgaris, more commonly known as acne, is the most prevalent skin disease worldwide. While many associate acne with puberty and teenage years, severe acne often persists into adulthood. Acne is characterized by inflammation of the skin on the face, chest, and back, comedones (i.e. ‘whiteheads’ and ‘blackheads’), papules, pustules, and cysts. 

Often, acne can lead to severe scarring which not only leads to discomfort but can have effects on mental health and impair quality of life. In fact, one Japanese study published in the Journal of Dermatology found that individuals with severe acne have higher rates of depression and other mental health conditions when compared to individuals without acne. 

Treatment for acne can be effective and includes at-home face washes, over-the-counter creams, and in-office procedures such as chemical peels and laser resurfacing. However, severe and persistent acne may not respond to these remedies and requires more intense treatment such as prescribed isotretinoin. However, isotretinoin can lead to a host of undesirable side effects and is especially dangerous for pregnant women. Because of this, better-tolerated acne treatments are necessary. Up to 85% of all people will experience acne at some point in their life, but there is still thought to be a strong genetic contribution to the susceptibility for acne. 

An article, that was recently published in the journal nature communications, explains research that sought to identify genetic loci that contribute to susceptibility for acne. In the study, the researchers performed a genome-wide association study meta-analysis on 20,165 individuals with acne. 

The researchers identified 29 new genetic loci that contribute to the risk for developing acne vulgaris. Many of the acne-causing genes that were identified by the researchers are known to be implicated in biological processes associated with skin and hair and other common diseases. Future research will help establish whether any of the underlying genes and pathways can be targeted by therapeutics to help cure or prevent acne vulgaris. 

Sources: Journal of DermatologyCleveland Clinicdrugs.comnature

About the Author
PhD in Neuroscience
Science and medical writer | Researcher | Interested in the intersection between translational science, drug development, and policy
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