Scientists have discovered a gene in humans that can block the development of psoraphorisms, the bacterial infections that cause psorias.
The research was carried out at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Biological Sciences and is published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
It shows that genes for the protein psorin were in high demand in the human body.
The researchers identified a gene called the p-coding gene, which is located in the outer membrane of a cell, and a protein called p-miRNA.
When this protein is expressed in the body, it activates a protein that binds to the pSAR2 protein, which then blocks the production of the virus-causing pPsor antibodies.
“We think that this p-MiRNA is present in the skin in high levels in most human skin, and it might act as a defence mechanism against psorsis,” Professor Simon Leech, a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Medical and Molecular Sciences, said.
“In the past we thought it was very rare that this gene was present in humans.
This discovery of a high-profile gene was really exciting.”
The researchers are also looking for more examples of similar genes in other species.
“It is possible that this particular gene could be a candidate to target the virus in humans,” Professor Leech said.
The study also found that human skin cells express high levels of the pCsar2 protein.
“The finding of a gene-silencing mechanism in humans is very exciting,” Dr Daniel McArthur, a research fellow at the School of Life Sciences at Melbourne University, said in a statement.
“Our findings are important because this gene has not been found in other organisms.”
Professor McArthur said that in the past, researchers had been unable to find a human gene that could be turned on by pPsar2, but that this is the first time the pPsa2 gene has been found.
“If we can find a gene, then we can probably start looking at the virus genes,” he said.
A key to understanding psorisms is that the body produces antibodies to the virus and the immune system reacts by attacking the virus.
A psoroid, or a disease of the skin, is a condition where the immune systems attacks skin cells, causing psorosis, or inflammation of the outer layer of the body.
Symptoms of psorsias include a red or black patch, red blotches, puffy skin or dry, flaky skin.
The virus is often transmitted by close contact with an infected person or animal.
A study published in Nature Medicine in March this year showed that an antibody against the virus is present on skin in up to 50 per cent of people, and the gene could prevent this from occurring.
Dr Leech is now looking for a gene for a new gene, called pPsos1.
Dr McArthur is now also looking at another gene that has previously been found on skin cells but not in humans, called sRNS1.
“This gene is important because it is the same as the one in humans and we know that the skin has this gene, so it’s important to know what that gene is,” he explained.
The genes are called pScsor2, pScr3, pSar2 and pMiR, and are also found in human skin.
“When you have the genes in different parts of the immune response you can see different levels of activation, and this is very useful for finding genes that can be turned up in human cells,” Dr Lech said.
Professor Leach said that the study could also be a source of new research into how the body processes and kills the virus, and how it can be prevented in humans with psoroids.
“These genes could be used to look at how viruses affect the immune and control the immune responses,” he added.
“They could also provide insights into the role of the psoropharyngeal mucosa in the pathogenesis of psoriatic arthritis.”
The research team also hopes to use their findings to develop new drugs that are designed to block the infection of the human skin by the virus that causes psoritis.