Genetic discovery yields possible new treatment of psoriasis
Researchers from VIB and UGent have discovered how to manipulate a protein that causes the painful skin condition psoriasis, which could lead to more effective treatments
Common but incurable
The team made up of researchers from Ghent University and life sciences research centre VIB was led by molecular biology professor Rudi Beyaert. The project focused on the molecular mechanism that causes the inflammations typical for the disease. More specifically, the scientists looked at a gene that corresponds to a protein called Malt1, which keeps the immune system under control. However, when this gene carries mutations, Malt1 transforms from a controller into a stimulator, resulting in an overactive immune system.
Beyaert and his team used these findings to look for chemicals that could inhibit the function of the Malt1 protein. “Now that we’ve found these chemicals, we want to test if they are also effective in patients with other, more common, forms of psoriasis,” says Beyaert. “There are several forms of psoriasis. For example, one frequent variant of the disease is not caused by genetic predisposition, but by environmental factors.”
In the meantime, the researchers are in contact with potential partners for the development of effective treatment options. Psoriasis is still an incurable disease; current treatments are limited to keeping the symptoms – red, scaly skin that itches, with sometimes painful red rashes – more or less under control.
If the researchers succeed in developing a new drug, it will take several years before it appears on the market as it has still to pass through clinical test phases.
Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB)
institute was founded