Genetics in general

Recent years have involved much discussion and research about mapping the human genome. How much do you know about genetics? You don't have to be an expert on the subject, but it's helpful to know the basics. This is especially relevant if you or someone you love has psoriasis, as experts know that a genetic link exists with the onset of the disease.

The adult human body is made up of trillions of cells, and genetic information is contained at the centre (nucleus) of each one of these cells. This information, in the form of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), codes the production of amino acids, which in turn form proteins. These proteins provide the building blocks for everything in our bodies, from gender to internal organs to outward physical appearance.

Where do genes fit in? A gene is made up of pieces of DNA. A single gene is the code that builds one protein. Recent research has shown that the entire sequence of DNA for the human body (i.e., the human genome) consists of about 35,000 genes.

Genes vary between individuals. Some differences in genes (for example, those that determine eye colour) are not considered "abnormal" when they differ between people. However, it is more important for genes involved with the healthy functioning of the body (such as those for the heart or kidney) to follow the proper (or normal) structure. If these genes vary, they are called abnormal as they may contribute to the onset of disease. These "abnormal" genes may be hereditary (i.e., inherited from your parents) or they may spontaneously occur.

Oftentimes the presence of a disease is linked to the influence of more than a single gene. Therefore it is not simple for researchers to establish the exact link between genetics and the onset of disease. Nevertheless, with ongoing advances in genetic knowledge, scientists are constantly expanding their understanding of this complex relationship.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Psoriasis-and-Genetics

Psoriasis and your genes

Scientists know that the onset of psoriasis is tied to genetic as well as environmental factors. While more than a dozen genes are believed to be linked to psoriasis, simply having the genes for psoriasis is not enough to trigger the condition.

Currently it is thought that about 10% of the population has the genetic make-up to provide for the onset of psoriasis, yet we see only 2-3% of the population actually develop the condition. So another factor is believed to be involved. This factor is referred to as "environmental," and while research shows that genetics play a much greater role than the environment in increasing the risk for developing the condition, both factors are important. Psoriasis studies involving identical and fraternal twins show that the incidence of twins both developing psoriasis occurs at a significantly lower rate in Australia than in the US, suggesting that environmental factors do have an important role to play in the onset of the disease. (The sun is stronger in Australia, and as sunlight is known to improve the condition, an interaction is believed to be taking place.)

And what do we mean by environmental factors? These can be related to the actual physical environment (as in the study above involving Australian twins) but can also include various external factors (i.e., those that are non-genetic) such as exposure to infection or stress; smoking; alcoholism; harsh soaps; an injury; or a reaction to certain medications.

Experts do know that psoriasis tends to run in families, and the risk of developing the condition is higher if a close family member develops the disease. Research into the genetic and hereditary component of psoriasis continues. If you have psoriasis, you and your family may wish to participate in studies to help further research. If so, talk to your doctor about what's involved and how to find more information.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Psoriasis-and-Genetics

New focus of treatment: biologics

The more researchers learn about the genetic nature of psoriasis, the more treatments can target the causes of the condition and provide better relief. As experts believe that more than one gene is involved in the development of psoriasis, the quest for a "cure" will not be simple as the process involves more than just the identification or isolation of a single gene. So for now, treatment (as opposed to a cure) provides the best hope for people affected by psoriasis.

Much treatment research focuses on a new class of medications called biologics. While this type of treatment is still in the development stage for aiding psoriasis, scientists believe it will soon play a key role in treating the condition. Biologics are medications derived from proteins from living cells. These proteins, given as an injection, work by interfering with the process in psoriasis where normal, healthy cells malfunction and become inflamed. Because biologics are designed to specifically target (eliminate) only the malfunctioning cells, they offer benefits in that the whole body (e.g., healthy organs) is less likely to be affected by the treatment.

As well, because biologics interact with the actual cellular activity that triggers psoriasis, experts believe this type of treatment will offer longer-lasting relief than those treatments that target the symptoms of psoriasis, such as scaling on the skin. Treatments that focus on relieving the symptoms often are only effective for a short time after the person stops taking the medication, as the cellular process that causes psoriasis is unaffected. By using biologics designed to eliminate the malfunctioning cells and alter the chain of events, researchers believe that the treatment will offer healing benefits of a longer duration than current medications. This could mean remission periods, without treatments or symptoms, for many people.

As mentioned, biologics are still in development and have reached different stages of approval for use. Talk to your health care professional about the best treatments available to you at present and about what treatment changes you can expect in future.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Psoriasis-and-Genetics

Direction of genetic research

Experts continue to try to identify which genes play a role in the development of psoriasis. This information will not only help researchers design specifically targeted treatments, but it could also lead the way to find a cure for psoriasis.

At present, dermatologists, immunologists, and geneticists around the world are busy researching the genetic nature of psoriasis and sharing their research to help isolate the genetic "culprits" in the onset of the condition. Once the genes (and experts know that more than one is involved) linked with psoriasis have been identified, the hope is that treatments will become safer, more effective, and targeted to the needs of individuals, based on their specific genetic make-up. Another area of possibility is gene therapy, which would involve "correcting" the genes that trigger the psoriasis process so that they function properly. This could be done by repairing the malfunctioning genes or replacing them with healthy ones.

Genetic knowledge is expanding. To monitor the latest studies and research, a variety of resources are available to you. Check with your local psoriasis society or support group for information, and remember that medical journals (often available online) also publish details on the latest news. As well, ask your health care professional about the best available treatments and how the latest genetic research benefits you.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Psoriasis-and-Genetics