"This is an exciting breakthrough that opens a new chapter in our quest to unlock the secrets of psoriasis," said Gail Zimmerman, president and CEO of the National Psoriasis Foundation. "We are clearly making great progress in understanding the complex genetic underpinnings of this often debilitating disease."
Anne M. Bowcock, Ph.D., of Washington University in St. Louis, and her colleagues identified three genes on chromosome 17 in which the "on and off" switches are impaired in statistically significant numbers of psoriasis patients. Several other psoriasis susceptibility genes are expected to be identified in the months and years ahead, including one on chromosome 6. In all, it is suspected that more than a dozen genes are involved in psoriasis.
"Over the next few years, researchers are going to identify a large number of psoriasis susceptibility genes," Dr. Bowcock said. "These will be important building blocks toward finding a cure in the future. In the meantime, the findings could help pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies craft the next generation of medications to treat the disease, and ultimately lead to more successful management of psoriasis."
This scientific research was made possible by the efforts of the Psoriasis Foundation, which created the National Psoriasis Tissue Bank and opened it in 1994 with money donated by Foundation members. This tissue bank, built with blood samples from hundreds of families with psoriasis, provided the raw material that the Bowcock team analyzed in its ground-breaking discovery.
"The financial and physical contributions of psoriasis patients a decade ago are now bearing fruit," said Gerald G. Krueger, M.D., a professor of dermatology at the University of Utah Medical School in Salt Lake City and a member of the Psoriasis Foundation's Medical Board. "This advance in our scientific knowledge is part of an intricate web of factors that seems to determine who gets psoriasis and who does not."
The Psoriasis Foundation recently funded follow-up research that the Bowcock team is doing to investigate the precise role in psoriasis played by the genes on chromosome 17. Other teams are also working on identifying the other genes thought to play a role in the disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also contributed significantly to the National Psoriasis Tissue Bank and the Bowcock team.
"Supporting cutting-edge research is a key commitment of the Psoriasis Foundation," added Zimmerman. "We will continue to work with NIH and interested scientists to promote research that will lead to new treatments and ultimately a cure for psoriasis."
Psoriasis is a lifelong skin disease that occurs when faulty signals in the immune system cause skin cells to regenerate too quickly--every three to four days instead of the usual 30-day cycle. Extra skin cells build up on the skin's surface, forming red, flaky, scaly lesions that can itch, crack, bleed and be extremely painful. Psoriasis generally appears on the joints, limbs and scalp but it can appear anywhere on the body, covering some people from head to toe. More than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis, a degenerative disease of the joints and connective tissues associated with psoriasis. Psoriasis typically first strikes people between the ages of 15 and 35, but can affect anyone at any age, including children.
About the National Psoriasis Foundation
The National Psoriasis Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization fighting to improve the quality of life of the more than 5 million Americans diagnosed with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis and their families. Sustained by annual contributions from more than 40,000 members as well as corporate and foundation grants, its mission is to educate people about these diseases and their treatments, raise public awareness, and support ongoing research. The organization is headquartered in Portland, Ore. For more information, please call the Psoriasis Foundation at 800.723.9166 or visit www.psoriasis.org.
National Psoriasis Foundation