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Researchers Share Why They Study Psoriatic Arthritis

Anne M. Bowcock, Ph.D.Anne M. Bowcock, Ph.D.

Professor of Genetics,
Pediatrics and Internal Medicine
Washington University, St. Louis

"I was introduced to psoriasis by a mentor in Dallas about 20 years ago. For me it's an amazing, fascinating disease. It's a very hard disease to understand even at the genetic level."

Her dedication to studying psoriasis has led to a significant discovery: Studying DNA from a family with several members who have psoriasis, she and her colleagues say they may have found the first conclusive gene mutation for psoriatic arthritis. DNA samples used in the study came from the Psoriasis Foundation National Psoriasis Tissue Bank, predecessor of the National Psoriasis Victor Henschel BioBank.

As they continue their research, Bowcock says she and her colleagues will have looked at DNA samples from about 10,000 patients. "It's been an intellectual challenge."


J.T. Elder, M.D., Ph.D.J. T. Elder, M.D., Ph.D.

Director, Psoriasis Pathophysiology
and Genetics Program
University of Michigan

"My brother has psoriasis, but the biggest reason I got involved had to do with a mentor in medical school. It was in the early days of PUVA (phototherapy treatment that uses ultraviolet light A plus the drug psoralen) and he took me around the PUVA unit and talked to me about the changes in growth and differentiation in skin cells in psoriasis. I had been (studying) red blood cells and white bloods cells, and when I saw the same processes in the skin, I became interested in psoriasis.

It's important to study and understand psoriasis because it's a challenge. It is one of the mysterious diseases of man. It affects one to two percent of the population, and it is disfiguring, embarrassing and painful."


Kristina Callis Duffin, M.D.Kristina Callis Duffin

Assistant Professor in Dermatology
University of Utah

"The reason I got started (in psoriasis research) was that there were occasional examples where I would see a father and a daughter who would have really similar psoriasis, and there were other families with seven or eight people and all these different looks to their psoriasis," says Callis Duffin, a colleague of Gerald Krueger. "So we wondered, is there something in the genetics, are there certain combinations (of gene variations) that increase your risk of really severe psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis?

"We believed we might be able to find a bunch of genes that if you put them in the right combination you would know why you have (for example) palmoplantar pustular psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. We know now it's not going to be that easy, but until we have shown it isn't the case, I think it's still possible."


Gerald G. Krueger, M.D.Gerald G. Krueger, M.D.

Professor of Dermatology Benning Presidential Endowed Chair
University of Utah

In late 1972, when Krueger was training to be a dermatologist, he "saw some very unusual mice that my (scientist) brother-inlaw was working with at the University of Montana in Bozeman." They were hairless or "nude" mice, which are widely used in skin research because they can receive and grow transplanted skin. The mice Krueger saw had been grafted with rattlesnake skin and chick skin.

"I thought, 'Wow, you can transplant human skin (onto them)!' I wanted to (work with) the mice because I thought I could understand a lot about psoriasis.

"We learned that even when we took uninvolved skin (skin not affected by psoriasis) from people with psoriasis, on the mice it developed psoriasis. So we understood that uninvolved skin is psoriasis waiting to happen.

"I went from there to doing more basic research to chase down where in the skin the message that controls everything is housed. I had always wanted a project that would keep me engaged for as long as I had a brain to stay engaged."


Wilson Liao, M.DWilson Liao, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Clinical Dermatology, Department of Dermatology
University of California, San Francisco

During his medical residency at the center, Dr. Wilson Liao formed a deep sense of connection to his patients. "When you are there with people for hours, you learn how psoriasis impacts their lives, their struggles, their hopes," he said. "It's much different than an office visit."

Inspired by these patients, Liao decided to dedicate his career to understanding psoriasis.

Now an assistant professor in the dermatology department at UCSF, he is one of a growing cadre of researchers working to unravel the intricate connections between genes, the immune system and skin cells. Their discoveries may eventually mean safer, more effective therapies for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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