The project's leader, Anne Bowcock, Ph.D., professor of genetics, of medicine and of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, says the results could help scientists understand the molecular details of what happens in psoriasis and improve ways to treat the condition. The study will be published online by Nature Genetics on Nov. 9.
"Now we can look at the functional roles of these genes -- how they normally keep the skin and the immune system from damaging healthy tissue with their defensive mechanisms," Bowcock explains. "These results are going to help us find answers for some very important questions, including how changes in cellular mechanisms cause the disease and whether we can predict who is going to develop the disease early on."
Psoriasis is a complex trait -- a disorder linked to several genes and environmental factors. It comes in a variety of forms, including psoriatic arthritis, which causes additional arthritis-like symptoms. The condition can be severely disabling and afflicts up to 30 percent of all psoriasis patients.
The protagonist of The Singing Detective, a new movie currently in limited release in New York and Los Angeles, suffers from psoriatic arthritis. The film, which stars Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson, is based on a play and television series by the late British author Dennis Potter, who suffered from the disease in real life.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, 4.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with the disorder and it afflicts about 2 percent of people in Western nations.
Scientists strongly suspect the immune system plays a major role in the disorders.