The science behind psoriasis: genetics and psoriatic diseases

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. In this condition, the immune system reacts abnormally and causes skin cells to shed irregularly. Instead of regular skin cell replacement, layers of skin cells accumulate on the surface of the skin, causing plaques (or placks) – thick patches of scaly skin.

While certain genes are known to be responsible for skin cell activity, researchers are not sure which genes are behind this disruption in the immune system, nor know the causes for this disorder.


Genes and psoriasis

While the family history behind psoriasis cannot be ignored, genes are but one factor in this complex disorder. Only a third of people with psoriasis have a family history of this condition. Research indicates that children with a parent who has psoriasis have a 10% chance of developing the condition themselves.

In identical twins, when one twin has psoriasis there is a 70% chance that the other twin will also develop this condition. In fraternal (non-identical) twins there is a 20% chance of developing psoriasis when one of the twins has the disorder.


The genetic basis of psoriasis is still unknown

Certain researchers believe that around 10% of the population inherit one or more of the genes that create a risk for psoriasis, but only 2-3% of this group actually develop the disease. Apparently, genes are not the only factor necessary for developing psoriasis.

Certain triggers are necessary for the disease to develop. Among the most common triggers are stress and skin injuries. This data may help explain why psoriasis is more commonly developed in adulthood rather than at birth. Researchers believe that the later in life psoriasis occurs, the genetic component to it is less central to its development. 


The need for new research

The good news is that researchers have recently identified seven genetic variations that are linked to psoriasis. Genome sequencing has enabled identification of three genes linked to the risk of developing psoriasis, that are also associated with the immune system and the skin. New research continues to isolate related genetic factors, researchers may be closer than ever to understanding why certain people develop psoriasis while others do not, even when they have the same genes. 

Researchers may also be able to learn how to develop new treatments that could fix the malfunction in the cells causing psoriasis and other genetic disorders, or even a way to fix the genes themselves. Further research is still needed, but these discoveries could lead to developing new treatment methods in the future.


The future of psoriasis treatment looks bright

Dermatologists in Los Angeles explain that while psoriasis is a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment, the good news is that several new treatments can provide long term relief.

Scientists have been looking into immunosuppressive therapy (drugs that suppress the immune system’s reaction), and biological treatment (drugs made from living human or animal-sourced protein cells).


Much more is known today about psoriasis and genes

Since biological treatment is targeted at specific immune cells, there is hope that it can help people with psoriasis prevent some of the more severe side effects that come with other forms of immune system therapy. Overall, this is a time of hope for psoriasis patients. Specialists today know much more about the role of genes in psoriasis, and new treatment methods are entering the market at an unprecedented rate.

 Although psoriasis is partly caused by genetic mutations, and hereditary cannot be controlled, the disease can be influenced by healthy lifestyle choices and a correct selection of treatment.


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