Doctors generally use topical steroids or surgery to treat genetic skin conditions, depending on the severity of the ailment. The problems with these treatments are that they do not attack the genes causing the condition and they could cause detrimental side effects, respectively.
Using a lotion that can alter mutated genes as a way of treating certain skin conditions may seem like a farfetched form of personalized medicine, but researchers at Northwestern University believe they have successfully developed this form of treatment, pending further exploration of their assertions.
"We like to treat skin diseases with topical creams so that we avoid side effects from treatments taken by mouth or injected," Dr. Amy Paller, chairwoman of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told ABC News. "The problem is that our skin is a formidable barrier. Genetic material can't get through the skin through regular means."
Researchers were able to deliver proteins capable of altering genes via miniscule gold particles, which help the proteins to pierce the skin. From there, these particles can deactivate the genes responsible for the condition. Initial trials did not show that the gold particles harmed the subject, but further research still needs to be completed to ascertain possible long-term effects.
Fortunately for those who are concerned about one of the more aggressive skin conditions – melanoma – most instances of the condition occur after a person's birth and are not genetic. Only about 10 percent of melanoma cases are considered to be genetic, and of those cases, there is only a 50 percent chance that a parent will pass along that mutation to children.
Still, diagnostic laboratories should be prepared to work with medical professionals who use new forms of gene therapy to treat patients who suffer from skin conditions, no matter how rare they may be.
This article is brought to you by Slone Partners, a leading laboratory recruitment firm in the emerging sciences of molecular, clinical, and in-vitro diagnostics, anatomic pathology and personalized medicine.
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