Playing whack-a-mole with inflammation

| Melissa Leavitt

Two recent studies funded in part by the National Psoriasis Foundation have uncovered new information about a protein called interleukin (IL)-6, which is involved in inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

The findings help explain how IL-6 functions in the immune system and what happens to psoriasis when the protein is blocked.

Both studies were funded by the National Psoriasis Foundation’s $50,000 Lozick Discovery Grant. The grant was awarded in 2013 to Dr. Nicole Ward, a dermatology researcher at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ward and her colleagues published their findings in two papers in December 2016.

One paper, published in Journal of Investigative Dermatology, examined the effects of deleting the gene for IL-6 in mice engineered to have a psoriasis-like disease. Researchers found that when IL-6 was blocked, other pro-inflammatory proteins increased.

According to the findings, blocking IL-6 led to an increase in IL-17, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and other inflammatory proteins involved in psoriasis, which could explain why the mice continued to have skin inflammation even without IL-6.

IL-17 and TNF-alpha are known to be key players in psoriatic disease and are the targets of biologics that can be used to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

The second paper, published in the journal JCI Insight, revealed the role IL-6 may play in cardiovascular disease, a comorbidity of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Comorbidities are diseases for which people with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis may be at a higher risk. Other comorbidities for psoriatic disease include diabetes and depression.

Cardiovascular disease can lead to events such as heart attack and stroke. In many cases, these events are triggered by the formation of a blood clot in the arteries. As explained in the paper, researchers found that blocking IL-6 in mice engineered to have psoriasis-like disease reduced blood clotting.

To learn more about NPF's research grants and see who we're funding this year, click here.





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