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Dermatological map could lead to new treatments

Friday January 22nd 2021

A newly created skin cell map offers a “huge leap” in understanding of disease and could pave the way for potential drug treatments for painful skin diseases, British researchers say.

Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Newcastle University and Kings College London, say their open-data findings, published in Science, reveal for the first time that skin from eczema and psoriasis patients share many of the same molecular pathways as developing skin cells.

The study also reveals that cellular processes from development are re-activated in cells from patients with inflammatory skin disease. It provides a new understanding of inflammatory disease that could lead to new areas of research for rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, the researchers say.

The researchers, who mapped the highly detailed atlas of developing and adult skin as part of the global Human Cell Atlas, also hope their findings could provide a template for regenerative medicine, particularly burns victims.

They studied cells from developing skin and compared these with biopsies from healthy adults and from eczema and psoriasis patients.

Using single cell technology and machine learning, the team analysed more than half a million individual skin cells, to see which genes were switched on in each cell. This allowed them to discover what each cell does and how the cells communicate with each other.

Co-senior author Professor Muzlifah Haniffa, from Newcastle University and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “This Skin Cell Atlas reveals specific molecular signals sent by healthy developing skin to summon immune cells and form a protective layer.

“We were amazed to see that eczema and psoriasis skin cells were sending the same molecular signals, which could over-activate immune cells and cause the disease. This had never been seen before. Discovering that developing cell pathways re-emerge is a huge leap in our understanding of inflammatory skin disease and offers new routes for finding treatments.”

Co-senior author Professor Fiona Watt, from Kings College London, said: “By revealing the detailed make-up of cells immediately on isolation from developing and adult human skin, this Skin Cell Atlas can act as a template for researchers trying to reconstruct healthy skin in regenerative medicine.”

Dr Sarah Teichmann, co-senior author from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and University of Cambridge, and co-chair of the Human Cell Atlas initiative, added: “This map reveals a completely new way of thinking about inflammatory diseases, and is an important reference that other scientists can use to investigate the causes of disease, and inform potential new treatments.”

[Skin Cell Atlas]

Tags: Dermatology | Genetics | UK News

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