Two separate approaches to treating psoriasis, a painful condition that attacks the skin, have shown promise in the lab and may be ready for human testing.
The first treatment is an experimental drug called benzodiazepine 423 (BZ-423)—a chemical cousin of the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and Xanax.
In human skin cultures designed to model psoriasis, University of Michigan researchers found the drug suppressed the unchecked cell growth that characterizes psoriasis.
"Currently, the best treatments for skin lesions associated with psoriasis are topical steroids, but they affect normal cells as well," says Gary Glick, a professor of biological chemistry. "And repeated use over time can lead to tissue destruction.
"What makes our compound particularly exciting is that it has the potential to be applied topically," and it can distinguish between the disease-causing cells and the normal cells, adds Glick.
"So we believe the problems associated with repeated topical steroid use could possibly be alleviated with compounds like this," he says.
Glick and his colleagues hope to begin human clinical trials with B2-423 in the near Future.
Easing The Itch
The second treatment under study addresses the cause of psoriasis itself. At the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, scientists say they have identified a protein called STAT3 that leads to psoriasis when the body's immune system is activated to fight off a wound, burn or other invasion.
That discovery led to developing a skin cream that cured the itching, redness and scaling of psoriasis at least in study mice.
The ointment may also be able to prevent recurrence.
"We may have found an entirely new treatment option for psoriasis," says John DiGiovanni, PhD, the lead investigator of the study and director of M.D. Anderson's department of carcinogenesis.