Dr Thomas Dawson, who led the five-year study, believes that his team's work may pave the way for more effective shampoos, lotions, and medicines to provide people respite from the problem of dandruff. "We have been able to see how the fungus interacts with the skin, and that opens up all sorts of new targets for medication," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
According to the researchers, nearly all skin conditions are associated with yeast called Malassezia globosa, which lives on human skin. They say that by feeding off natural oils in the skin, and by releasing a toxic by-product that can irritate the scalp, the fungus causes itchiness and clumps of dead skin that are noticeable on hair and clothes.
While medicated shampoos are available to deal with fungal infections, they are not 100 per cent reliable. It was about five years ago that researchers found that Malassezia globosa was associated with the problem of dandruff. The genome for the dandruff yeast has just 4,285 genes written in nine million chemical 'letters' of DNA, tiny compared to that for humans.
During the study, the researchers grew ten litres of the yeast in a tank, froze it in liquid nitrogen before extracting its DNA, and then smashed it up into fragments.
The researchers read the DNA sequences of the pieces, and fed them into a powerful computer. The results of the study have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.