November 9, 2003
Researchers have discovered a trio of genes that likely help provide the complex origins of psoriasis, the itchy skin disease triggered when the immune system runs amok.
The genes, when defective, increase a patient's susceptibility to the incurable disease, according to a study appearing Monday in the electronic edition of the journal Nature Genetics. The genes are considered low risk for psoriasis, meaning it is likely that many other genes - as well as environmental factors such as stress - play a role in increasing susceptibility to the disease.
"We're just putting together the first pieces of a big puzzle," cautioned Anne Bowcock, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She and her colleagues suggest the genes may be implicated in other autoimmune diseases, including eczema.
A second study on rheumatoid arthritis appearing in the journal, along with previously published work on lupus, suggests a common genetic origin to a whole set of autoimmune diseases.
Drug companies recently have introduced some new treatments for psoriasis that work by tinkering with the body's immune system. They include two shots that recently received Food and Drug Administration approval.
Psoriasis is marked by red or white patches of scaly skin that burn and itch. In about 30 per cent of cases, it is accompanied by debilitating arthritis-like symptoms.
Researchers want to further study the psoriasis genes in mice and other
laboratory animals, a necessary first step in the long road to potential
new therapies that could target the genes in human patients.
Copyright © 2003, Canadian Press