Researchers discover reason for skin discoloration in psoriasis

It's a common frustration: Your psoriasis flare-up finally goes away and in its place remains a patch of discolored skin.

Researchers at the Laboratory of Investigative Dermatology at The Rockefeller University have discovered a reason why – opening up opportunities for treatments for skin discoloration in psoriasis and skin conditions like eczema and acne.

Their findings were published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in 2013. They show that two immune system proteins that are known to cause the inflammation of psoriasis, the cytokines interleukin-17 (IL-17) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), also are to blame for skin discoloration.

The researchers found that IL-17 and TNF-alpha are interfering with the production of melanocytes – cells that produce the pigment that gives skin color. IL-17 and TNF suppress melanin, or pigment, production. Both proteins also promote the formation of melanocyte clusters.

"This was very surprising," said Claire Q. Wang, a research associate and the study's lead author, in a press release. "Melanocytes are believed to only replicate in the initial growth stage of melanocyte tumors, including melanomas. Here, in psoriasis, their numbers were doubled, sometimes tripled, but this was non-cancerous skin. This shows us that these cells are not as dormant in healthy individuals as scientists believe."

This finding helps scientists better understand what happens after a flare-up subsides.

"During a flare-up, there can be parts of skin with hypopigmentation — white spots," said Wang. "Then after it subsides, the spots turn dark. We think the increase in IL-17 and TNF induces this build-up of melanocytes, but prevents them from expressing the melanin until the inflammation settles down. Then the build-up is released, and the skin shows hyperpigmentation — dark spots."

 


Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

Recent Advance Posts

How the voice of the patient makes a difference in your state and nationally.
Let’s get to the bottom of what it really means to be an advocate.
NPF meets with other national health care organizations about access to care...
Dial in to our summer series of advocacy calls and connect with others living...
Patients are looking to 2020 for utilization management reform in the Golden...
Clockwise from left, Brittany Duffy-Goche, Marc Boas, Pete Redding, Tami Seretti, Lisa Bayautet
How patients descended on our nation’s capitol for NPF’s annual fly-in.
Lynne Breaux Arapis
How a lack of good information mobilized one volunteer to get involved and...
Advocacy staff, patient advocates and researchers are ready to raise awareness...
When NPF advocacy brings together many voices with one mission, the results can...