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07-21-2007, 09:28 PM
Psoriasis and atopic eczema are the most common chronic inflammatory skin diseases affecting a large number of patients worldwide. Both diseases have a substantial negative impact on the patients' quality of life. Investigations analyzing the molecular background of these diseases have identified hundreds of disease-associated genes and proteins; however, our understanding about the regulatory networks underlying the altered expression of these genes is far from being complete. The incomplete understanding of the pathomechanism of these inflammatory diseases has so far prevented the development of curative treatments.

A team lead by Eniko Sonkoly and Andor Pivarcsi at the Karolinska Psoriasis Group, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet investigated for the first time the potential involvement of microRNAs in the pathogenesis of psoriasis and atopic eczema using a genome-wide screen. MicroRNAs are small RNA molecules, originally discovered in worms, that regulate gene expression and have critical functions in health and disease. However, neither the expression nor roles of this novel group of molecules had been characterized in inflammatory diseases.

The new report by Sonkoly and coworkers, published in PLoS ONE, on 11 July, 2007 demonstrates for the first time that microRNA expression patterns distinguish psoriasis from healthy skin and atopic eczema, suggesting the existence of a previously unrecognized layer of regulatory mechanisms in the pathogenesis of these inflammatory diseases. The results published in this article suggest that microRNAs are involved in the cross talk between skin cells and immune cells and they may contribute to psoriasis pathogenesis by altering protein expression and cellular functions both in skin cells and in immune cells.

This investigation introduces a novel concept to inflammation and dermatology and opens new avenues for future research of inflammatory diseases. Since this work is the first to investigate microRNAs the human skin, these exciting findings will be the basis for further investigations analyzing the function of microRNAs in this organ under healthy or disease conditions. Moreover, the investigators do not exclude the possibility that similar to skin inflammation, microRNAs play regulatory roles also in other common chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and autoimmune diseases. Importantly, the microRNAs identified in this study hold promise to become targets for the treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin diseases. Since microRNAs are master switches affecting complex cellular functions through the regulation of several proteins, microRNA-based therapies may be more effective than drugs targeting single proteins.

"Novel Regulators Involved in the Pathogenesis of Psoriasis?"
Sonkoly E, Wei T, Janson PCJ, Sääf A, Lundeberg L, et al (2007) MicroRNAs:
PLoS ONE 2(7): e610. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000610
Click here to see article (http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0000610)

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