February 26, 2021

Scientists discover how psoriasis and eczema develop in skin cells

UK researchers have discovered how skin conditions like chronic eczema develop (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images...

UK researchers have discovered how skin conditions like chronic eczema develop (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

UK scientists have discovered how chronic conditions such as psoriasis and eczema develop in skin cells which, they believe, could open doors for potential new treatments.

Researchers have found that cells from skin with eczema and psoriasis share some of the same cellular mechanisms as developing healthy skin cells.

The team said the findings, published in the journal Science, could help in the development of new drugs targeting inflammatory skin disease.

Psoriasis, which affects around 2% of people in the UK, is caused by an increased production of skin cells.

Although the process is not fully understood, the condition is thought to be related to a problem with the immune system.

Eczema, which causes the skin to become itchy, dry and cracked, is more common in children but can improve as they get older.

Animation of a cut of skin with hyperkeratosis, scales and inflammation
Animation of a cut of skin with hyperkeratosis, scales and inflammation. (Photo by: BSIP/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

There are no cures for the conditions and treatments can only relieve the symptoms.

Scientists from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Newcastle University and Kings College London, created a detailed map of the human skin as part of the global Human Cell Atlas effort to map every cell type in the human body.

They looked at how cells develop in healthy skin as well as as skin from eczema and psoriasis patients.

An analysis of more than 500,000 skin cells revealed that diseased cells shared many of the same molecular pathways as developing cells.

human cell skin body structure under microscope
A human cell skin body structure under a microscope (Credits: Shutterstock / Arkadiusz Wos)

Professor Muzlifah Haniffa, co-senior author from Newcastle University and Associate Faculty at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: ‘This Skin Cell Atlas reveals specific molecular signals sent by healthy developing skin to summon immune cells and form a protective layer.

‘We were amazed to see that eczema and psoriasis skin cells were sending the same molecular signals, which could over activate immune cells and cause the disease.

‘This had never been seen before.

‘Discovering that developing cell pathways re-emerge is a huge leap in our understanding of inflammatory skin disease, and offers new routes for finding treatments.’

Man with psoriasis on his arms
Psoriasis affects around 2% of people in the UK (Credits: Shutterstock / Fuss Sergey)

The researchers said their study also opens up new avenues for research on other inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease and could have ‘great implications’ for regenerative medicine, especially for burns victims.

Professor Fiona Watt, co-senior author from Kings College London, said: ‘There have been decades of research on skin cells grown in the laboratory.

‘However, it is not always clear how the properties of the cells change in the laboratory setting.

‘By revealing the detailed make-up of cells immediately on isolation from developing and adult human skin, this Skin Cell Atlas can act as a template for researchers trying to reconstruct healthy skin in regenerative medicine.’


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