Anyone who’s experienced psoriasis, acne or eczema probably has experience with the lingering redness or discoloration left in the wake of major breakouts. Fortunately researchers at Milstein Medical Research Program at The Rockefeller University have finally discovered the source of the correlation between pigment changes and psoriasis, which is good news for sufferers of acne and eczema as well.
Their research revealed that immune system molecules called cytokines are closely related to several inflammatory skin conditions. Essentially, they signal passing immune cells when there’s an infection so they can fight it off.
Two specific cytokines known as interleukin-17 and tumor necrosis factor contain an excess of psoriasis, which forces the immune system to attack it’s own skin cells. This is old knowledge, however, and Clair Q. Wang, PHD and her colleagues in the Laboratory of Investigative Dermatology at Rockefeller University set out to discover if the two troublemaking molecules had anything to do with skin discoloration.
This discoloration has commonly been attributed to light therapy devices that use artificial UVA and UVB light to treat inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis. The light doesn’t cause sunburn, but many researchers believed that it was still the source of the pigmentation shift. Wang’s research shows that this assumption was incorrect.
TNF and IL-17 seem to be the real culprits. Both interfere with melanocyte production. Melanocytes cells produce skin color pigment. Though melanocytes usually only reproduce in the first growth stage of tumors like melanomas, the numbers doubled and tripled during psoriasis flare-ups, suggesting the cells aren’t as inactive as researchers used to believe.
Thanks to this research, scientists are now more able to understand the conditions of a patient’s skin after a flare-up of psoriasis. During flare-ups, white spots containing hypopigmentation appear, but it seems that after inflammation settles, increases in TNF and IL-17 increase melanocyte build-up, essentially pushing hyperpigmented dark spots to the surface of the skin.
“Hyperpigmentation and inflammation are unfortunate side effects of psoriasis,” says Kimberly Langford at Jellen Products, Inc. “Luckily, there are new alternative treatments available such as red LED (Light Emitting Diode) therapy to help alleviate these symptoms, safely and gently, without exposure to harmful UV wavelengths. Red Light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that stimulates the skin’s natural repair and rejuvenation processes making it safe for all skin types and effective in the treatment of a wide range of skin conditions. Although the research remains quite new regarding the use of red light therapy for psoriasis, each additional study suggests that the treatments are quite promising and offer hope for sufferers of this chronic disease.”
Researchers expect this new understanding of the relationship between chronic inflammation and cytokine and melanocyte production to yield new and more effective therapies for skin disorders like psoriasis.