NPF-Funded Research

B cells and Psoriatic Arthritis

Nicole Ward

Principal Investigator: Nicole L. Ward, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Grant Mechanism: Translational Research Grant
Funding Amount: $200,000
Project Start Date: August 1, 2022
Project End Date: July 31, 2024
Status: Active
Keywords: Psoriatic Arthritis, Gene Expression, Immunology, Cell Biology, Animal Models

Project Summary:

This project seeks to define how the immune system causes joint inflammation and destruction in psoriatic arthritis; a debilitating yet poorly understood joint disease that affects ~1 million Americans. Using a mouse model of psoriasis-like skin inflammation that develops spontaneous inflammatory joint disease and using blood and joint fluid from psoriasis patients with and without arthritis, these studies will determine whether certain B cells, a class of immune cells long overlooked in the psoriasis field, are essential drivers of psoriatic arthritis, and will define how they interact with T cells, the immune cell that is currently targeted by most psoriasis treatments. The results of this research will bring clarity to the longstanding questions of how psoriatic arthritis arises, leading to a paradigm shift in understanding the pathogenesis of the disease, why it does not respond to many of our current therapies for psoriasis of the skin, and what existing FDA-approved agents may possibly be repurposed to treat this devastating disorder.

Researcher Profile:

Dr. Nicole L. Ward is a Professor and the Vice-Chair of Basic Research in the Department of Dermatology. She joined the department in January 2022 after working at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland for more than 18 years. Dr. Ward completed her undergraduate, graduate and fellowship training in Canada before moving to Cleveland in 2003. Her active research program is focused on understanding the cellular and molecular pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory skin diseases, like psoriasis and psoriasis-related comorbidities. Her lab specializes in generating and studying unique mouse models of inflammatory skin disease. Her group has published several seminal findings including being the first to show that chronic skin-initiated inflammation can drive the development of cardiovascular disease and that suppressing it reverses disease; and that cutaneous sensory nerve interactions with dendritic cells are critical for eliciting and sustaining psoriasis pathogenesis, thus explaining the cellular mechanisms underlying psoriasis disease remission following skin denervation. Her paradigm-shifting work in psoriasis resulted in her being awarded the Eugene M. Farber Lecture at the 2016 Society for Investigative Dermatology meeting. She was the first non-M.D., first woman and youngest person to be awarded this honor. In 2019, the American Skin Association acknowledged her scientific contributions with the Research Achievement Award in Psoriasis, and in 2022 the National Psoriasis Foundation honored her at their Women Who Lead Commit to Cure Gala.

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