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Immune Cell Discovery Leads to Possible New Treatments for Psoriasis, Eczema

Posted: December 10, 2009

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The researchers discovered Th22 cells by looking at skin samples from people with psoriasis, atopic eczema and allergic contact dermatitis. They analyzed the samples and found a completely new type of cell. The researchers examined the molecules the cells made and found that one of them was a signalling molecule called interleukin-22 (IL-22). This signalling molecule warns tissues that inflammation or infection is going to occur, so the tissues can get ready to recognize and attack pathogens or protect themselves against inflammation. The effect of this can be either protective or detrimental—for example, IL-22 molecules and Th22 cells can cause skin cells to grow too quickly, resulting in painful, flaking skin.

The authors of the new study hope that their new discovery will provide scientists developing treatments for inflammatory disorders with a new cellular drug target. The researchers are now investigating the role of these cells in greater detail and exploring their role in disease progression. In addition, Dr Schmidt-Weber and his colleagues want to know how the cells are generated in the body and whether there is any way to control these cells before they cause unwanted damage.

Story source: Adapted from materials provided by Imperial College London, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS., November 17, 2009