Six scientists on the forefront of psoriatic disease research received Translational Research Grants, totaling $1.2 million, from the National Psoriasis Foundation for projects focused on moving scientific discoveries generated during laboratory or clinical research into projects that clearly benefit patients.
Each researcher received a two-year, $200,000 Translational Research Grant to further their study of psoriasis—the most common autoimmune disease in the country, affecting 7.5 million Americans—and psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory joint and tendon disease. They are:
· Jun Yan, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Louisville School of Medicine previously determined that a novel immune cell—called a gamma deltaT cell—plays a critical role in development of psoriasis by producing a large amount of the inflammation inducing factor IL-17. Yan hopes to regulate these immune cells and determine how blocking their pathway decreases skin inflammation. This information could lead to new strategy for treating psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. He is associate professor of medicine in the tumor immunobiology program at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
· Anne Bowcock, Ph.D., of Washington University in St. Louis, believes that mutations in the Card14 gene play an important role in developing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. She will test this hypothesis by developing a genetically altered mouse strain that expresses the mutant gene. This new model has the potential to enhance our understanding of psoriatic diseases and may lead to new treatments with better efficacy and safety than those currently available.
· Johann Gudjonsson, M.D., Ph.D., of University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, will use RNA sequencing to create a high resolution map of the key inflammatory pathways leading to psoriasis. Knowledge gained from this project may help scientists predict the course of disease and response to treatment.
· Alan Menter, M.D., of Baylor University Research Institute in Dallas, Texas, will examine the effects of different treatments for psoriasis on cardiovascular disease risk. To do this, Menter will measure changes in gene expression and the balance of different white blood cells that are thought to be associated with cardiovascular risk.
· Eniko Sonkoly, M.D., Ph.D., of Karolinska Institute in Sweden, will explore whether a cell regulator called micro RNA 125b—which is decreased in psoriasis skin—has a role in the over production of skin cells. If proven to be true, this regulator would be an interesting target for a novel therapeutic approach for psoriasis.
Additionally, Sam Hwang, M.D., Ph.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, received the Lutto Translational Grant, named to recognize a generous bequest from Seymour and Rebecca Lutto, in memory of their son Lawrence Lutto. Hwang will study whether cell membrane proteins known as CCR6 and CCL20 are involved in psoriasis by modeling the binding sites within these molecules and testing potential drugs that might inhibit them. This study may lead to the identification of new drugs that not only treat psoriasis, but other diseases that rely on the CCR6/CCl20 pathway.
“National Psoriasis Foundation is dedicated to spearheading psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis research,” said Dr. Lawrence Green, National Psoriasis Foundation Board of Trustee member and chair of its Research Committee. “We are honored to support these leading scientists and their research endeavors that will enhance our knowledge of psoriatic diseases and move us closer toward a cure, which is the Foundation’s highest priority.”
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