APR 19, 2018 1:19 PM PDT

New Treatment for Psoriasis and Other Autoimmune Diseases

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

The same compound that helps immune cells detect bacteria during an invasion could help scientists design a new drug to treat psoriasis, an autoimmune disease. From the Washington University School of Medicine, researchers use a modified form of a compound called itaconate in mice models of psoriasis.

Characteristic patches of plaque psoriasis. Credit: Eisfelder

"We are taking advantage of the body's own anti-inflammatory power and showing that it can help in real situations when your own immune system is hurting you," explained senior author Maxim Artyomov, PhD.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease characterized by accelerated growth of skin cells that the body can’t shed. Instead, the cells build up on the skin, causing the characteristic patches, often on the knees, elbows, lower back, or scalp.

Inflammation is a double-edged sword. Inflammation (redness, swelling) is necessary for recruiting immune cells to the scene of an infection or injury to ward off pathogens and heal wounds, but the hero turns villanous when the inflammation is excessive or unwarranted.

Itaconate suppresses inflammation, which is the foundational issue behind autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and others. While the present study looked at the potential of itaconate to treat psoriasis, the compound may also be capable of treating other diseases too.

The main focus of the present study was identifying how and why itaconate suppresses inflammation. Researchers started by treating isolated inflammatory cells from mice and humans with a modified form of itaconate, dimethyl itaconate. They saw that the compound reduces levels of a key protein in the IL-17 inflammatory pathway, lkappaBzeta.

This inflammatory pathway is significant in the fight against bacteria and other pathogens, but it’s also partially responsible for causing autoimmune diseases. Genetic studies linked variations in the gene that codes for lkappaBzeta to an increased risk for developing psoriasis. Would reducing levels of lkappaBzeta treat psoriasis?

In the mice, researchers induced psoriasis-like symptoms while giving them doses of either placebo or dimethyl itaconate once a day for one week. Dimethyl itaconate successfully thwarted psoriasis as opposed to the placebo. Follow-up studies already in progress include testing itaconate compounds and multiple sclerosis in mice.

“Everyone thought that if it is produced by inflammatory cells it should fight infection, but no - it's anti-inflammatory,” Artyomov said. “Now we know that itaconate compounds can help with autoimmune diseases, specifically in psoriasis and potentially in multiple sclerosis. This small molecule is turning out to be really powerful."

The present study was published in the journal Nature.

Sources: American Academy of Dermatology, Washington University School of Medicine

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 26, 2021
Immunology
Two Different Arms, Twice the Cancer-Killing Potential?
OCT 26, 2021
Two Different Arms, Twice the Cancer-Killing Potential?
Our immune system has developed an arsenal of sophisticated molecular weapons to defend us against the continuous barrag ...
NOV 11, 2021
Immunology
Some Patients Left Vulnerable to COVID Even After Getting Vaccinated
NOV 11, 2021
Some Patients Left Vulnerable to COVID Even After Getting Vaccinated
Global vaccination efforts continue in the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic. However, new studies demonstrate how severa ...
DEC 06, 2021
Cancer
Young Patients with Lymphoma Benefit from Chemotherapy Combination Treatment
DEC 06, 2021
Young Patients with Lymphoma Benefit from Chemotherapy Combination Treatment
The most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). DLBCL is a fast-growing cancer th ...
DEC 09, 2021
Immunology
Stopping the Spread of COVID by Chewing Gum?
DEC 09, 2021
Stopping the Spread of COVID by Chewing Gum?
Scientists have developed a special chewing gum that could reduce the risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2. The technology was d ...
DEC 16, 2021
Immunology
Just Add Water: Super Stable Freeze-Dried COVID Vaccines
DEC 16, 2021
Just Add Water: Super Stable Freeze-Dried COVID Vaccines
  In the face of a viral threat with pandemic potential, developing a potent vaccine is just one half of the battle ...
JAN 17, 2022
Cancer
High Fiber Diet Provides a Helpful Boost to Melanoma Treatment
JAN 17, 2022
High Fiber Diet Provides a Helpful Boost to Melanoma Treatment
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have become a promising new treatment for advanced cancers, including melanoma. Immu ...
Loading Comments...