Ten Scientists Receive National Psoriasis Foundation Research Grants

Apr 27, 2010, 08:00 ET from National Psoriasis Foundation

Nearly $1 million awarded to study psoriatic disease

PORTLAND, Ore., April 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) awarded $800,000 in grants to 10 of the nation's top researchers whose projects have great potential to advance treatments and ultimately lead to a cure for psoriasis—one of the most prevalent autoimmune diseases in the country, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans.

Eight scientists each received a $50,000, one-year Discovery Research Grant to provide support for pilot research that focuses on the Foundation's four research pathways of genetics, cell biology, immunology and epidemiological/health services.

The Discovery Grant recipients and their projects are:

  • Maria Eugenia Ariza, Ph.D., of The Ohio State University in Columbus, will study a protein called HERV-K dUTPase to determine whether it triggers the immune system to promote psoriasis. This knowledge could help identify new therapeutic treatments to prevent the initiation of psoriasis.
  • Ruby Ghadially, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, will study whether skin stem cells, which are always present, or transit amplifying cells, an immediate offspring of the stem cell, are increased in psoriasis. This study will resolve a fundamental question in psoriasis and may lead to the development of new agents effective in treating psoriasis.
  • Nima Gharavi, M.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, will look at mechanisms contributing to cardiovascular disease in psoriasis patients by studying oxidized lipids, biological compounds including cholesterol and fat, and whether they are present in psoriasis lesions. The results could lead to a better understanding of the underlying causes of psoriasis and how they contribute to cardiovascular disease.
  • Andrew Johnston, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, will examine interleukin-1 proteins, which are abundant in psoriasis skin and absent in healthy skin, to determine their effects on the immune cells. This knowledge could help unlock new therapeutic approaches to psoriasis management.
  • Smitri Kundu-Raychaudhuri, M.D., of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Sacramento, will study a potential new treatment called PAP-1 by examining white blood cells called effector memory T cells, which are overactive in psoriasis and trigger inflammation of skin and joints, to see if psoriasis improves with the novel treatment.
  • Wilson Liao, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, will study next-generation DNA sequencing to look at the genetic variants that influence psoriasis. This research might help make it easier to predict how a person's psoriasis will behave and which medications will work best.
  • Nehal Mehta, M.D., M.S.C.E., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, will examine whether psoriasis is a risk factor in a disease of the arteries called atherosclerosis by studying shared cells in both chronic diseases.
  • Nicole Ward, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, will determine the connection between psoriasis and cardiovascular comorbidities like atherosclerosis and heart disease. Ward's goal is to identify the cellular and molecular links to psoriasis and these associated diseases in order to provide new insight into therapeutic treatments.

In addition, the Psoriasis Foundation awarded two scientists each a $200,000, two-year Translational Research Grant to study psoriatic arthritis, a condition that causes swelling of the tendons and joints.  

The researchers and their projects are:

  • Elaine Husni, M.D., M.P.H., of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, will examine evidence that psoriatic arthritis patients are at increased risk for heart disease by studying the connections between joint inflammation and cardiovascular inflammation. Husni hopes to identify key biomarkers that may allow for early detection of these risks in psoriatic arthritis patients. Dr. Husni's grant is co-funded by the Arthritis National Research Foundation.
  • Christopher Ritchlin, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, will study whether elevated levels of a protein called DC-STAMP correlate with more severe skin and joint disease to reveal why some psoriatic arthritis patients have mild disease and others suffer severe joint damage. This knowledge will help identify patients with more aggressive disease earlier in order to tailor their therapy.

"We are excited and honored to support these projects," said Chip Newton, member of the National Psoriasis Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee. "These research endeavors are imperative to finding new treatments and, ultimately, a cure for psoriasis, which is the Foundation's highest priority."

Since 1975, the NPF has awarded more than $6 million in grants to support promising psoriasis research and is the largest charitable funder of psoriatic disease research worldwide.

To learn more about the Psoriasis Foundation's research initiatives and grant program, visit www.psoriasis.org.

About Psoriasis

Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the country, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. Appearing on the skin most often as red scaly patches that itch and bleed, psoriasis is chronic, painful, disfiguring and disabling. Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, a related joint disease. There is no cure for psoriasis.  

About the National Psoriasis Foundation

The National Psoriasis Foundation is the world's largest nonprofit organization serving people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Our mission is to find a cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and to eliminate their devastating effects through research, advocacy and education. For more information, call the Psoriasis Foundation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., at 800.723.9166, or visit www.psoriasis.org.

SOURCE National Psoriasis Foundation