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Developing New Therapeutic Targets for Psoriasis

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a five year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to study the development of psoriasis, and to evaluate molecules that have the potential to prevent psoriatic symptoms and that could be models for drug development.

Sam T. Hwang, MD, the Thomas J. Russell Family / Milwaukee Community Dermatologists Professor and Chair of Dermatology, is the primary investigator of the grant. Dr. Hwang is also a practicing dermatologist at Froedtert Hospital. Brian F. Volkman, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry, is a collaborator and co-investigator on the project.

Psoriasis is a chronic disease of the immune system typified by areas of skin thickening, scaling and cracking. Up to three percent of the world’s population is affected, and there is no cure for the lifelong condition, which can also involve painful psoriatic arthritis.

In this project, Dr. Hwang and his collaborators will investigate molecules that allow the movement of immune cells into the skin tissue when the skin is immunologically activated.  He has previously shown that deletion of the gene for a chemokine receptor called CCR6, which works with a protein called CCL20, prevents the onset of psoriatic symptoms in mice.

This project builds upon work funded by a 2012 National Psoriasis Foundation Lutto Translational Grant. The researchers will use novel computational methods to model the structure of important binding sites within the CCR6 and CCL20 molecules in order to rapidly identify and then validate potential drugs. Through this marriage of structural and computational biology, drugs may be identified that would be used to treat not only psoriasis but possibly other autoimmune diseases that rely on the CCR6 /CCL20 pathway.

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Page Updated 08/20/2013