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

Flemish biologists have made a significant breakthrough in the fight against psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune skin disease that’s incurable and affects between 2% and 4% of the population.

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.

Photo: Ingimage

Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB)

VIB is a government-funded life-science research institute that has helped Flanders become one of the leading bioscience regions in Europe. Its focus is on translating scientific insights into pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial applications.
Open house - Each year, the institute opens its labs across Flanders to thousands of visitors in its open-house Biotech Day.
First - Flemish researchers were the first to unravel the chemical structure and functional meaning of a complete genome.
Mission - The VIB was created to push Flemish life sciences research to the top and to help scientific results foster economic growth.

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