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A collaborative study between the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine and the Kennedy Institute identifies a new pathway that limits the severity of inflammatory skin disease.

Psoriasis is a common, chronic inflammatory disease that arises in part from an immune response in skin tissues. Patients suffering from the disease often develop red irritating skin lesions due to excessive secretion of inflammatory proteins that speed up the production of skin cells.

The new study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine suggests that a family of immune cells called regulatory T cells help reduce the severity of inflammation during the onset of inflammatory skin disease. Regulatory T cells were found to curb the secretion of an inflammatory protein called interferon that recruits damaging T cells into the skin.

The findings are consistent with previous work showing that people who carry genetic mutations that abolish regulatory T cells also develop severe psoriatic skin lesions.

The research was co-led by Professor Graham Ogg, a Group Leader at the MRC Human Immunology Unit, MRC WIMM and the Director of the Kennedy Institute, Professor Fiona Powrie.

Speaking of the work Graham said "strikingly, we observed that regulatory T cells were able to effectively control cascades of inflammatory skin responses. As well as providing mechanistic insights, the findings further support the development of regulatory treatment modalities."

Current treatments for psoriasis reduce inflammation and help manage disease but fall short of providing a cure. A better understanding of how inflammation is controlled in the skin could aid the design of new therapies that stop the disease in its tracks.

First author on the paper, Dr Krista Stockenhuber, performed this research as part of the Wellcome Trust Infection, Immunology and Translational Medicine (IITM) DPhil programme. Speaking of the scheme, Krista said "It is crucial for scientists at early stages in our carer to be given opportunities to explore our own interests while receiving support and guidance. The IITM programme offered exactly this framework of great mentors and scientific freedom that allowed me to pursue this interesting project. Getting to know these labs and their distinct interests during the IITM rotations and later working with them on my DPhil Thesis was invaluable for me as an aspiring clinician scientist and ultimately the success of this project".

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