Why Does Eczema Exist? Apparently, Bad Luck!
A common and understandable refrain from someone who suddenly gets a flare-up of eczema is, “Why me!?” Why do we get eczema? Is the universe really that against us for having healthy skin? Well, according to a recent study from the University of Buffalo…
In this study, scientists looked at the evolutionary history of eczema to figure out why evolution hasn’t yet snuffed out this skin condition. After looking at a data set of over 2,500 people from around the world, this is what they found:
Many genetic diseases such as eczema can actually have hidden evolutionary benefits. Sickle cell anemia, for example, actually can help the body in the fight against malaria. Eczema, however, has no such positive benefit attached. If there is no way that eczema has helped human beings in some way, why hasn’t evolution weeded it out as “unfit”? The scientists’ conclusion? Believe it or not, bad luck. Despite it being completely unimportant and in some cases harmful, eczema has managed to survive to plague modern-day humanity simply because of dumb luck.
At the heart of the research is the filaggrin gene. We’ve talked about it in past blogs. This gene helps regulate healthy skin function, so when it stops working due to inherited genetic mutation, it creates an increased risk of eczema. This doesn’t, however, seem to affect the reproductive success of the people carrying the bad gene. They pass it on, safe and sound.
The article goes into far more detail about theories on how the filaggrin mutation survived. The bottom line is that it looks like evolution isn’t going to take care of this problem for us. Thankfully, new treatments are being researched every day, so hopefully at some point in the future, science will be able to rid us of eczema. We will keep you informed, but that day is still far into the future!
Hsu, Charlotte. "http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2016/10/005.html” <http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2016/10/005.html/>. University of Buffalo. University of Buffalo, 05 October 2016. Web. 13 October 2016.