A newly discovered protein could hold the key to the genetic treatment of psoriasis and other skin conditions, according to a new University of Birmingham study. The protein is part of JARID2, a molecule previously thought to be present exclusively in the embryo, and which plays an essential part in skin layer differentiation.
By ensuring that skin tissues maintain their natural state of differentiation, the molecule prevents skin conditions such as psoriasis, which is caused by the rapid division of cells. In psoriasis, immature cells are pushed to the surface of the skin, thus causing a crusty red buildup covered in whitish-silver scales.
The newly-discovered protein – named N-JARID2 – can thus play an essential role in the development of a genetic treatment for psoriasis.
Dr. Aditi Kanhere from the School of Biosciences, who coordinated the study, explains: “In some diseases, cells lose their ability to differentiate, and divide more rapidly. Being able to redirect cells back to their usual life cycle could alleviate the processes behind the disease.”
Following Dr. Kanhere’s research, published in EMBO Journal, the patenting team at University of Birmingham Enterprise filed a broad-based patent covering the use of N-JARID2 in therapies for conditions caused by excessive skin cell growth, such as psoriasis.
According to a University of Birmingham press release, “the research team is now investigating how N-JARID2 is generated and its wider implication in disease, while the patenting team hopes that this discovery will ultimately lead to novel therapies for skin conditions.”
Current psoriasis treatments are based on topical corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues and calcineurin inhibitors, among others, and can only provide either an alleviation in the severity of the symptom or a temporary clearance of the skin. A permanent cure, however, has yet to be developed. If successful, genetic therapy for psoriasis could potentially provide the cure for this disease.
According to the World Psoriasis Day consortium, psoriasis currently affects more than 125 million people worldwide.
Dr. Anit Kanhere’s full study can be found at http://emboj.embopress.org/content/early/2018/12/18/embj.201798449.