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Medical College researcher to study new pathway for psoriasis

June 20, 2012

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a two-year, $200,000 grant from the National Psoriasis Foundation to study the pathogenesis of psoriasis and to identify new drugs that may benefit patients.

Sam Hwang, M.D., Ph.D., and Thomas J. Russell Family/Milwaukee Community Dermatologists Chair and professor of dermatology, is the principal investigator for the grant.

Approximately 7.5 million Americans are living with psoriasis, an autoimmune disease in which dead skin cells accumulate and cause irritation that appears as itchy scales or dry patches. Symptoms can be treated, but there is no cure, and the severity of the disease ranges from mild discomfort to complete disability. Complications include arthritis, ischemic heart disease, and depression. Dr. Hwang’s lab identified two proteins (a chemokine receptor called CCR6 and it binding protein) in prior studies of psoriasis development that appear to have significant involvement in the disease. In this study, Dr. Hwang will investigate these proteins further to better understand how they impact the pathogenesis of psoriasis. Dr. Hwang will also use computer modeling to discover drugs that may block the actions of these proteins and thus, potentially, improve therapy for patients with this disease.

This study may verify a pathway for psoriasis and provide new information about its cause. The project may also identify new treatments for psoriasis and other diseases influenced by the proteins Dr. Hwang is investigating.

This special award is called the Lutto Translational Grant in honor of Seymour and Rebecca Lutto, who made this research possible with a gift to the National Psoriasis Foundation. They sought to memorialize their son Lawrence Lutto by advancing scientific knowledge regarding the cause and treatment of psoriasis. This year, the National Psoriasis Foundation awarded to $2.06 million to 26 scientists, which is the greatest number of grants and dollars ever given by the foundation.

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