Gene Insights May Improve Psoriasis Care

TUESDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say they've spotted genetic "hot spots" associated with psoriasis, a finding that could lead to new drug targets and tailored treatments for the autoimmune skin disease.

The team looked for DNA changes in thousands of psoriasis patients and healthy people, and identified seven areas that showed a consistently strong association with psoriasis. This led the team to four proteins produced from the altered DNA code that offer good targets for further study.

The study appears in the Jan. 25 issue of Nature Genetics.

"This discovery highlights the role of several genes in mediating the immune responses that result in psoriasis. Some of the highlighted genes, like those in the IL-213 pathway are already targeted by effective psoriasis therapies. Others, like the TNFAIP3 and TNIP1, may become targets for the psoriasis treatments of the future," co-principal investigator Goncalo Abecasis, an associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said in an university news release.

It's long been known that genes play a major role in psoriasis. A child with two affected parents has a 50 percent chance of developing the condition, and siblings of people with the disease are three to six times more likely than others to develop psoriasis. However, scientists are still trying to learn more about the genes responsible for psoriasis, which affects about 7.5 million people in the United States.

When a full catalog of psoriasis-related genes is completed, it may be possible to create a psoriasis gene profile that can accurately predict a person's risk of developing the disease.

Psoriasis causes sore, itchy patches of red, scaly skin. In addition, 10 percent to 30 percent of patients develop psoriatic arthritis, a painful inflammation of the joints. Psoriasis can also increase the risk of coronary artery disease. Current psoriasis treatments, including different types of immune system-suppressing drugs, aren't always effective and can cause serious side effects.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about psoriasis.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, Jan. 25, 2009