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New therapeutic target for HS identified

T-helper 17 (Th17) immune cells appear to play a key role in the inflammation associated with hidrandenitis suppurativa (HS), suggesting the Th17 pathway may be a therapeutic target for treatment of the skin condition.

The research was performed by a team of researchers from Trinity College Dublin, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Elm Park, Ireland, and Tallaght Hospital, Tallaght, Ireland.

Cells isolated from skin and blood samples obtained from HS patients and healthy volunteers were analyzed via cytometry to identify which immune cells were most active in the two groups. They found that the amount of Th17 and T-regulator (Treg) cells were elevated in HS lesional skin, and that the normal ratio of Th17 to Treg cells was also skewed in favour of the Th17 cells.

It may be possible, then, to treat HS by targeting the Th17 pathway with existing medications.

“Similar treatments have been extremely successful in treating psoriasis, which is another inflammatory skin disease. In the samples we screened we saw that HS patients who had been successfully treated by a therapy known as ‘TNF blockers’ had far fewer Th17 cells than previously, which suggests that medications which target this pathway may hold the key,” said senior author Dr. Jean M. Fletcher in a press release on July 19, 2017. Dr. Fletcher is the Ussher Assistant Professor in Translational Immunology at Trinity College Dublin.

“Our work provides a target molecule for drug developers aiming to tackle HS. A number of products that focus on the Th17 pathway are already on the market, but have not yet been tested in clinical trials as agents for tackling HS,” Dr. Fletcher said. “We hope our work opens the door to better outcomes for clinicians and HS patients alike.”

The findings were first published online ahead of print in Journal of Investigative Dermatology (June 24, 2017).

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