What scientists do when they’re let out of the lab

Ever wonder what scientists are doing when they aren’t toiling away at the lab bench or writing grant applications? The short answer is “a lot.” If you dig a little deeper, you’d find that one frequent activity is attending scientific conferences held in cities around the world. These conferences provide the chance to present research results, learn from others in the field and build collaborations. Few people are able to achieve scientific success in a silo. These meetings provide a great way to connect. 

NPF recognizes the value of these kinds of meetings. Exhibit A: The biennial Research Symposium, set for Chicago, Aug. 3-5, 2017. Exhibit B: The annual Research Trainee Symposium, which will be in Portland, Oregon, Oct. 11-12, 2017. And when these meetings aren’t happening, others are. At the end of April, more than 1,000 members of the dermatology research community converged on Portland – NPF’s hometown for 50 years – for the 75th Society for Investigative Dermatology (SID) Annual Meeting. 

Over the course of the three-day conference, researchers from every corner of the globe and every facet of dermatology research brought their unique perspectives, groundbreaking projects, and novel ideas to the mix. Of all the groundbreaking projects, more than 40 came from researchers working on active NPF-funded research. It may be hard to grasp the significance of that number, but you should be proud that projects and researchers supported by your dollars were out in force! On display at SID was the quality and the breadth of the research NPF supports – leaving no stone unturned in our fight for a cure and to improve the lives of those affected.

New pathways and new treatments

On the basic science front, 2016 Discovery Grant recipient Joseph Larkin, Ph.D., at the University of Florida presented insights into a protein signaling molecule called suppressor of cytokine signaling-1 (SOCS-1). You need SOCS-1 to stop inflammation. The under-expression of SOCS-1 has been reported in other immune-mediated diseases. Larkin’s project may reveal not only the role of this protein in psoriasis, but also the potential of topically-applied SOCS-1 as a treatment option in the future. 

Others exploring treatments for psoriasis included 2016 Translational Research Grant recipient Peter Marinkovich, M.D., and his 2015 Medical Dermatology Research Fellow Mårten Winge, M.D., Ph.D., both at Stanford University. At SID, they described the promising effects of a new small-molecule inhibitor, PRN694, in experimental models of psoriasis. PRN694 interferes with two signaling molecules that are upregulated in psoriasis plaques. By doing so, PRN694 may turn down the volume of the immune responses that cause symptoms. 

Triggers and comorbidities

While some projects explored new pathways and new treatments, many explored the triggers of psoriatic disease – a hot topic among patients and researchers alike. Studies into the role of the microbiome (microbes like bacteria and fungi that live on and in the human body) were on display from Andrew Johnston, Ph.D. (2016 Discovery Grant), Oliver Harrison, Ph.D. (2016 Early Career Research Grant), and Di Yan (2016 Medical Dermatology Research Fellowship), while Yun “Larry” Tong, M.D. (2016 Medical Dermatology Research Fellowship) presented results from his project looking at skin injury as a trigger (the Koebner phenomenon). 

Finally, other NPF-funded researchers presented research into related diseases (comorbidities) and other aspects of the psoriasis patient experience. Comorbidities are a serious topic, but the overall message was promising. 
On the one hand, 2016 Medical Dermatology Research Fellow Megan Noe, M.D., MSCE, demonstrated an association between severe psoriasis (BSA>10 percent) and early mortality in a large U.K.-based dataset. 
On the other, Pablo Michel, M.D., demonstrated progress with his work into the identification of biomarkers (unique patterns in a person’s physiology that can be measured by a health care provider) that can help predict, and hopefully get ahead of, heart disease in psoriasis patients. 

Now you may be asking yourself – why does all of this matter? Just think about it. This lineup of scientists, all carrying the torch for NPF, are exploring novel scientific questions to reveal new treatments, find a cure, and along the way improve people’s lives. Sound familiar? The only thing more exciting than the present of NPF-funded research may be the potential for the future of NPF-funded research. And this was on display at the 2017 SID conference. 

If you want to become a part of it, we can help.

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.

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