Study Identifies 29 New Acne Risk Genes

February 17, 2022

The new findings may open up new avenues of treatment and help clinicians identify individuals at high risk of severe acne

Researchers have identified 29 regions of the genome that influence acne.

The new findings may open up new avenues of treatment and help clinicians identify individuals at high risk of severe acne. The research is published in Nature Communications.

To arrive at their findings, researchers analyzed nine genome wide association study datasets from patients around the world. These studies involved scanning the whole genomes 20,165 people who had acne and 595,231 people who did not. The study identified 29 new genetic variants that are more common in people with acne. It also confirmed 14 of the 17 variants already known to be associated with the condition. This brings the total number of known variants to 46.

 “Despite major treatment advances in other skin conditions, progress in acne has been limited. As well as suffering from the symptoms of acne, individuals describe consequent profound, negative impacts on their psychological and social wellbeing. It’s exciting that this work opens up potential avenues to find treatments for them,” says Catherine Smith, a professor of dermatology and therapeutics at St John's Institute of Dermatology at Guy’s and St Thomas in London. 

A number of genes were identified that are common in people with acne and are also linked to other skin and hair conditions. The team believes this will help to understand the causes of acne, which could be a mix of factors.

 “We know that the causes of acne are complicated, with a mix of biological factors such as genetics and hormones, and environmental factors. Understanding the genetics of the condition will help us to disentangle some of these causes and find the best way to treat the condition. This is a really promising area for further study, and opens up a lot of avenues for research,” says Michael Simpson, head of the genomic medicine group at King’s College London. 

The research also found a link between the genetic risk of acne and disease severity. Individuals who have the highest genetic risk are more likely to have severe disease. While further research is required, this finding raises the potential to identify individuals at risk of severe disease for early intervention.

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