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Gene Therapy for Psoriasis

written by: Rishi Prakash•edited by: lrohner•updated: 1/28/2011

Some genes have been found to be responsible for psoriasis, an autoimmune skin disease. Gene therapy could be the right treatment for the disease. This article discusses whether psoriasis gene therapy is available or not.

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    What is Psoriasis?

    Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes scaling and inflammation of the skin. Normally, skin cells grow deep inside the skin and rise to the surface. This kind of growth of the skin cells is called cell turnover and it takes almost one month. However, with psoriasis, this happens in just few days, as cells rise quickly and pile up on the surface. In most of the psoriasis, thick, red skin with silvery scales is seen. These skin patches can be itchy or feel sore. These can be found in various parts of the body such as knees, elbows, lower back, palms, feet and soles.

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    Risk Factors

    Both men and women can get psoriasis, and it mainly occurs in adults. Research suggests that certain genes are responsible for the same, explaining why the condition my run in families.

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    Causes of Psoriasis

    Psoriasis starts in the immune system. A white blood, cell called a T-cell, that helps protect the body against infection attacks its own skin cells by mistake. As a result, swelling and rapid turnover of skin cells and local inflammation occur. Causes of the condition include:

    • Stress
    • Infections
    • Emotional Stress
    • Smoking or heavy alcohol use
    • Certain Medicines
    • Change in weather
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    Signs and Symptoms

    People who suffer from psoriasis may show symptoms that include:

    • Raised skin lesions, silvery surface scale
    • Itchy skin
    • Blisters with pus
    • Joint pain (psoriatic arthritis)
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    In the early stages, psoriasis looks very similar to other skin diseases, making diagnosis difficult. Doctors often need to take a sample of the infected skin to view under the microscope.

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    Genes and Psoriasis:

    Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each chromosome contains many genes. Scientists have found that at least 9 different parts of 7 separate chromosomes may be involved in controlling psoriasis. These regions are quite large and contain many genes. Therefore, finding a specific gene involved in psoriasis is very difficult. However, scientists have successfully found some genes that belong to a family called interleukins, which play a significant role in the body immune system.

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    Psoriasis Gene Therapy

    Gene therapy is a scientific technique of replacing malfunctioned genes with working ones. No gene therapy is available for psoriasis. But there are two significant reasons why gene therapy for psoriasis is not possible. The first significant reason is that gene therapy is used to replace a gene that does not function at all. In case of psoriasis, genes are working and they are over-expressed. It is therefore, very difficult to turn off a gene than to replace a gene. The second most important reason is that there are many genes involved in psoriasis. Even if scientists find all of them, it would be very difficult to fix them all at a time.