A recent review in the International Journal of Molecular Science has outlined the role that stem cells play in psoriasis. The first clinical trials using stem cells to address psoriasis are currently underway. The idea to use stem cells to treat psoriasis came serendipitously when researchers observed that, when patients with other conditions were treated with stem cells, their skin lesions underwent remission.
The specific stem cells that have proven useful in healing these skin lesions are mesenchymal stem cells and hematopoietic stem cells. However, there is potential for other stem cell types to help with psoriasis as well. Indeed, according to the researchers, psoriasis patients who have undergone bone marrow stem cells transplants have also gone into remission.
A major challenge in treating psoriasis is the complexity of the condition, which involves relationships between skin cells, immune cells, and the vascular endothelium. However, dysfunction of certain stem cells has been identified as a potential contributor to psoriasis and provides theoretical credence to the value of stem cells in a treatment against the condition.
Based on research into the mechanisms by which stem cells may be able to help patients with psoriasis, there are a number of effects of stem cells that are advantageous. For instance, the stem cells impact both cells of the skin, affecting the proliferation and differentiation of those cells, as well as cells of the immune system. The multiple ways that stem cells can affect psoriasis support the view of psoriasis as a multi-system condition.
Given that psoriasis appears to be not only a condition of the skin, but one of the immune system, developing an effective therapy can be challenging. Treatments to help patients with psoriasis would ideally address both the skin symptoms that plague these patients, as well as the underlying physiological processes that lead to the skin condition. Future research will need to address how specific types of stem cells can help those with psoriasis and how these different stem cells impact specific aspects of the condition.