King's College Scientists Discover 29 New Acne Risk Genes

A study of the genetics of acne has identified 29 regions of the genome that influence the skin condition.

These genetic insights offer potential new targets for treatment, said a team of researchers including from King's College London.

They may also help clinicians identify individuals at high risk of severe disease.

Psychological Consequences

Acne is a common skin condition. Estimates indicate it affects 80 per cent of teenagers. Spots and cysts, pigment changes, and scarring are all common features. The face is the most common site, with the chest and back also frequently involved. The negative psychological consequences of acne are seen in all ages, but perhaps of particular concern for teenagers.

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The research, published in Nature Communications, analysed nine genome wide association study datasets from patients around the world.

The 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.

"We know that the causes of acne are complicated, with a mix of biological factors such as genetics and hormones, and environmental factors," said Professor Michael Simpson, Head of the Genomic Medicine Group at King's College London.

"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," he added.

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 believe this will help to understand the causes of acne, which could be a mix of factors.

Further, 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, the researchers said.