Flaky tail mouse mimics eczema
Scientists have discovered a mouse which carries the genetic mutation responsible for increased susceptibility to eczema, and eczema-related asthma. The mutation occurs in the gene for filaggrin, a protein found in the skin.
The skin plays a crucial role as a barrier, preventing water loss and making sure pathogens, chemicals and allergens don’t reach the immune system easily. The filaggrin protein is key to maintaining this barrier; if the gene is mutated, the shape of the protein is changed so the barrier becomes weak. This can increase water loss, causing ichthyosis vulgaris (a common inheritable disorder of dry skin). Scientists also recently linked the mutation to eczema and eczema-related asthma, as it also lets antigens and allergens pass through the skin and reach the immune system.
An unexpected mutation in laboratory bred mice causing a condition known as 'flaky tail'. The team discovered that these mice carry the filaggrin mutation so could offer insights into the precise role of filaggrin, and its role in eczema and related asthma.
As with many genetic conditions of this nature, inheritance of the mutation does not mean the individual is certain to develop the condition; but it increases the chance they might. So the team hope to use the mouse to explain how environmental factors influence development of the disease. One such theory is that exposure to pets in infacy increases the likelihood of developing asthma.