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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Jun 27 16:42:00 EDT 2012

A new 'Achilles' heel in fungus that causes dandruff

Research on the fungus that ranks as one cause of dandruff — the embarrassing nuisance that, by some accounts, afflicts half of humanity — is pointing scientists toward a much-needed new treatment for the condition’s flaking and itching. The advance is the topic of a report in ACS’ Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Claudiu T. Supuran and colleagues explain that dandruff involves an excessive shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp. In people without dandruff, it takes about 30 days for a crop of new skin cells to mature, die and shed. In people with dandruff, it may take only 2-7 days. Irritation by the scalp-dwelling fungus Malassezia globosa (M. globosa) is one cause of dandruff. Shampoos and other dandruff treatments contain anti-fungal agents, but the authors say new medicines are badly needed since the two existing compounds are not very effective at preventing and treating dandruff.

In the quest for a better treatment, Supuran’s group identified an enzyme in M. globosa that is essential for the fungus’s growth. Tests showed that sulfonamides, a family of existing antibiotic medicines, were more effective in preventing the fungus’s growth than ketoconazole, a widely used anti-fungal medicine that is an ingredient in certain dandruff treatments. As a result of the study, the scientists believe that the enzyme is a prime target for developing better anti-dandruff medicines.

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