NPF-Funded Research

TLR7/NF-kB c-Rel Signaling Pathway is a Potential Therapeutic Target for Psoriasis

Angela Liu

Principal Investigator: Angela R. Liu, B.A.
Case Western Reserve University - School of Medicine

Grant Mechanism: Early Career Research Grant
Funding Amount: $50,000
Project Start Date: August 1, 2023
Project End Date: July 31, 2024
Status: Active
Keywords: Psoriasis, Cell Signaling, Disease Models, Immunology, Inflammation, Drug Therapy, Basic Science

Project Summary:

Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease characterized by red, scaly patches on the skin. The cause of psoriasis is not well understood, and current treatments primarily treat disease symptoms instead of the cause. Many patients do not respond to treatments, leading to social isolation, physical discomfort, and pain. To find better treatments, more knowledge is needed on the cells and signaling pathways that cause disease. This study focuses on the role of a type of white blood cell called dendritic cells and a protein called NF-kB c-Rel, both of which are associated with psoriasis. Specifically, this study will explore the role of a signaling pathway mediated by a protein receptor present in dendritic cells that activates c-Rel protein function and skin inflammation, possibly leading to psoriasis development. Knowledge gained through this study will develop potential strategies in targeting c-Rel and TLR7 pathway for novel psoriasis treatments.

How will your project help improve the lives of the 125 million affected by psoriatic disease?

Current psoriasis treatments primarily ameliorate inflammatory symptoms, as underlying mechanisms which cause disease have not yet been elucidated. However, solely treating inflammation without addressing the root cause is not a sustainable long-term solution. More insight is needed on the mechanisms of psoriasis pathogenesis so novel targets can be identified. My project will bridge the gap we currently have in understanding the mechanisms of psoriasis pathogenesis, specifically through how dendritic cells cause skin inflammation and affect keratinocyte function. By unraveling the intricate interplay between dendritic cells, skin inflammation, and keratinocyte function, I hope to develop more effective treatments that address the underlying cause of psoriasis.

Why is psoriatic disease research important to you, personally? What role will this award play in your research efforts or career development?

Psoriasis affects millions of individuals worldwide, causing not only physical discomfort but also substantial psychological distress. By elucidating the mechanistic causes of psoriatic disease, I aim to contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge, ultimately leading to the development of novel therapeutic targets and effective treatments.

My ultimate career goal is to use my clinical foundation to advance research in a patient-relevant manner. I believe science and medicine are meant to complement each other, and only by advancing scientific knowledge can we reach a common goal of curing debilitating diseases. Current treatments for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases broadly target the influx of cytokines, however, rarely do treatments address the source of the problem. I believe in order to find more efficacious treatments, more knowledge needs to be known on the molecular and cellular signaling that causes disease. I have seen firsthand the frustration from patients suffering from poorly managed psoriasis, and I wish to be part of the community that leads to substantial improvements in quality of life. This award will provide me with tools and opportunities to improve my skills in not only biological techniques, but also scientific communication, literature analysis, and critical thinking. I am excited that this award will allow me to continue my research in a collaborative environment, and connect with leaders in innovative science to support me in my career goals.

This grant was funded in part by Bob Schoenberg.

Researcher Profile:

Angela R. Liu is currently an MSTP (M.D./Ph.D.) student at Case Western Reserve University. She is in the Immunology Training Program in the Department of Pathology under the mentorship of Dr. Parameswaran Ramakrishnan. Her current research investigates the role of signaling pathways in dendritic cells implicated in inflammatory diseases. She is passionate about elucidating the intricate molecular mechanisms that underlie disease pathogenesis, with the ultimate goal of discovering novel molecular targets and treatments for disease.

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