Targeting enzyme could help treat inflammatory skin conditions

Image shows CYP1A1 expression (in green) in naïve mice skin and during skin inflammation.

Image shows CYP1A1 expression (in green) in naïve mice skin and during skin inflammation.

Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute and King’s College London have found an enzyme that plays a role in inflammatory skin diseases and could be a good target for new treatments for conditions like psoriasis. 

Inflammatory skin conditions can cause redness, pain, itching and dryness, and severe cases can majorly impact quality of life. 

In their paper, published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the scientists identified an enzyme, CYP1A1, which has a key role in a biological pathway that controls skin inflammation. If this enzyme is overactive, it impedes this regulation and this contributes to skin diseases such as psoriasis. 

The researchers compared the activity of the CYP1A1 enzyme in cells taken from people with psoriasis to cells taken from healthy people. They found that the CYP1A1 enzyme was significantly more active in the psoriasis samples than in the healthy samples. 

And when the researchers experimentally blocked this enzyme in mice with an inflammatory skin condition, they saw the condition improve.

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Paola Di Meglio, senior author and former post-doc in the AhRimmunity Lab at the Crick and currently lecturer at King’s College London says, “We believe imbalance in the activity levels of this enzyme is one factor that contributes to skin inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis. Although there are some effective biological drugs to manage psoriasis, there is no cure. Unfortunately, not all people living with psoriasis qualify for these expensive treatments and still rely on creams and ointments. We think that it should be possible to develop new cheap treatments that target this imbalance in CYP1A1, hopefully alleviating symptoms in people who don’t qualify for biological drugs.”

The researchers will continue their work to understand the impact of CYP1A1 on skin inflammatory conditions, for example atopic eczema, and find the most suitable way to target this enzyme.

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