JUL 30, 2020 7:56 AM PDT

Gene Silencing Therapy Stops the Itch of Psoriasis

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

A team of Harvard researchers has identified a promising new approach for treating psoriasis — a topical lotion containing nucleic acids that transiently disrupt inflammatory gene activity. This ionic liquid (IL) contains small interfering RNA, or siRNA, which when used in an experimental mouse model of the itchy skin disease, drastically reduced the levels of inflammation-causing cytokines and soothed symptoms. All this without any observable systemic side effects. This breakthrough has been published in the journal Science Advances.

The study’s first author, Abhirup Mandal, believes that IL therapy is transformative in the field of dermatological disorders such as psoriasis, saying “Compared to other technologies that have demonstrated delivery of nucleic acids to the skin, our IL platform offers unique opportunities in terms of tunability, an excellent safety profile, and economical scale-up.” 

In psoriasis, skin cells multiply at an abnormally accelerated rate, up to 10 times faster than normal. The result is inflamed red patches and scaly, dry skin that tends to flare up around the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Over 125 million around the world suffer from the chronic irritation of psoriasis and treatment options are limited.

The active ingredient in the treatment developed by Mandal and colleagues is synthetic siRNA. These double-stranded RNA molecules can temporarily suppress the activity of a target gene, making them a prime candidate for treating disease without having to permanently alter the genetic information stored in cells. The challenge is that the chemical properties of therapeutic RNAs hinder their ability to pass through cell membranes. To overcome this hurdle, the team used an ionic liquid delivery vehicle, which transports the siRNA molecules directly into the cells underlying the waterproof barrier.

When applied to the skin of mice with psoriasis, the scaly patches, redness, itching, and thickening of the epidermis were all significantly reduced. The scientists demonstrated for the first time how siRNAs in IL can be used for topical therapies, silencing genes that exacerbate the effects of psoriasis.

“Many of the innovations that biologists have been using in research for years have significant clinical potential, but most haven’t achieved it because of fundamental limiting factors such as, in this case, the barrier posed by the skin,” said co-author and Founding Director of Harvard’s Wyss Institute, Donald Ingber.

“This creative solution to this drug delivery problem holds great promise for enabling a new class of effective treatments that are long overdue.” 

 

 

Sources: The Harvard Gazette, Science Advances.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
OCT 08, 2020
Immunology
Air Pollution Particles Detected in the Placenta, Immune Cells Mop Them Up
OCT 08, 2020
Air Pollution Particles Detected in the Placenta, Immune Cells Mop Them Up
Tiny, black particles much like those found in polluted air have been found in the placentas of pregnant women, as repor ...
OCT 11, 2020
Microbiology
Getting Closer to a Vaccine for Flaviviruses
OCT 11, 2020
Getting Closer to a Vaccine for Flaviviruses
Flaviviruses like dengue, West Nile, Zika, Japanese Encephalitis, and yellow fever infect over 400 million people a year ...
OCT 27, 2020
Immunology
The Genetics of Skin Inflammation, Seen With Unprecedented Clarity
OCT 27, 2020
The Genetics of Skin Inflammation, Seen With Unprecedented Clarity
A recent study published in Immunity details MIT scientists’ exploration of the underlying mechanisms of inflammat ...
NOV 09, 2020
Microbiology
Fighting COVID-19 with Help From Llamas
NOV 09, 2020
Fighting COVID-19 with Help From Llamas
Camelids, which include llamas, alpacas and camels have immune systems that generate two kinds of antibodies when confro ...
DEC 15, 2020
Immunology
Yes, You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine.
DEC 15, 2020
Yes, You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine.
A recent study published in Science Translational Medicine has provided fresh insights on how our immune systems protect ...
JAN 12, 2021
Immunology
Killer Control: Engineered Stem Cells Dodge Transplant Rejection
JAN 12, 2021
Killer Control: Engineered Stem Cells Dodge Transplant Rejection
The first organ transplant—performed over 60 years ago—was a success because the donor and recipient were id ...
Loading Comments...