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    Psoriasis researcher examines nervous system’s role in perpetuating disease

    Many dermatologists have seen the phenomenon, but can’t explain it. It starts when a psoriasis patient undergoes knee joint replacement surgery or has an accident resulting in skin denervation. Amazingly, the skin disease disappears on the treated or injured knee.

    READ: Researchers isolate psoriasis triggering proteins 

    Prior to a study by Nicole Ward, Ph.D., in 2011 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, scientists had only hypothesized this phenomenon was due to skin nerve damage. A newly funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, which was started in July 2013 by Dr. Ward and colleagues, not only follows up on her previous work, but could also open the door to new therapies for chronic psoriasis sufferers.

    Dr. Ward, associate professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, has received three NIH grants to study the mechanisms of psoriasis. The most recent is to investigate the nervous system’s role in in the disease.

    Dr. Ward says her work in psoriasis started almost by accident.

    “When I started my own research lab, I was interested in studying how blood vessels and nerves in the skin interacted, and why they seemed to pattern each other. In developing experimental methods to study how those two systems interacted, I serendipitously created my first mouse model of psoriasis, which was the KC-Tie2 mouse. That’s the mouse model that I originally published and still study to this day,” Dr. Ward says. “That started my interest in studying inflammation, and how it’s sustained and initiated specifically with respect to psoriasis.”

    NEXT: Identifying protein culprits

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is president of Words Come Alive, based in Boca Raton, Florida.

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