Department of Dermatology
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Skinergy Newsletter

Dr. Nicole Ward recognized for securing three National Institutes of Health Grants to study the mechanisms of psoriasis

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Nicole Ward, PhD
Associate Professor

Nicole Ward
Photo by Billy Delfs
Follow Dr. Ward on Twitter: #PskinPscientist

Dr. Ward’s research has resulted in three National Institute of Health grants totaling over $3 million over the past 2 years.

July 2012 Dr. Nicole Ward received $1.8 million RO1 grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, known as NIAMS, to study the chronic inflammatory skin disease psoriasis and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Ward wrote in the abstract Laymen’s Statement that “There is an increased prevalence of ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral artery disease and an increased risk of death in individuals suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), colitis, gum disease, psoriasis and lupus. Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms linking remote inflammation and cardiovascular disease will provide new knowledge as to why this relationship exists and more importantly will provide novel therapeutic development strategies directed at the treatment of the cardiovascular co-morbidities associated with chronic inflammation”.1

In March 2013 NIAMS contributed $1.9 million to Dr. Ward and her research team to study the mechanisms of inflammation and psoriasis. Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease that affects 2-3% of Americans and although many are afflicted and research has continued, there has been no cure. Dr. Ward will explore interleukin-17C, a protein that regulates the immune system and builds upon an earlier study with TNF-alpha found in the development of psoriasis. It has been found that some therapies have adverse reactions which has created a need for further study and clinical trials. Dr. Ward states in the Laymen’s Statement of the Abstract that “understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which IL-17C promotes cutaneous inflammation in psoriasis will provide insight into IL-17C-medited amplification of Th17/22/TNFα mediated inflammatory signaling, and may identify IL-17C as a novel target for the development of therapeutic strategies.”2

In July 2013 Dr. Ward received a $370,500 grant, also from NIAMS, to study Neurogenic Inflammation and Psoriasiform Dermatitis. Current observations indicated that accidental nerve injury resulted in a spontaneous remission in plaque psoriasis. Cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to psoriasis remain unknown and further study is needed to ascertain the possible role of the nervous system in the psoriasis healing process. Dr. Ward stated in the abstract Laymen’s Statement that “Psoriasis affects millions of individuals on a daily basis and has a high impact on quality of life, equal or exceeding hypertension or diabetes. A noteworthy but not well-understood observation in psoriasis is the spontaneous remission of plaque following accidental denervation or nerve injury. Although the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying nerve contribution to psoriasis remains unknown, these findings imply a role for the nervous system in maintaining the psoriasis phenotype.”3

May 2013 the National Psoriasis Foundation also supported Dr. Ward to study KLK6 in psoriasis pathogenesis with a $50,000 grant. KLK6 is a serine protease that in psoriasis patients is elevated. In the Laymen’s Statement of the study abstract Dr. Ward states “We recently engineered a novel line of transgenic mice that will allow us to model the increases in KLK6 protein in ECs and/or KCs. This work will identify KLK6 as a novel protease important in psoriasis pathogenesis capable of promoting molecular and cellular events critical for skin inflammation and epidermal hyperplasia. Future work will test the efficacy of inhibiting KLK6 in preclinical mouse models of psoriasisform skin disease. We believe these prospective studies will identify KLK6 as a novel anti-psoriasis therapeutic target.4

Dermatology Times:
Psoriasis researcher examines nervous system’s role in perpetuating disease.
Psoriasis researcher earns third NIH Grant in One Year.
$1.8M Grant Supports Investigation of Psoriasis Link to Cardiovascular Disease.

1. Ward, NL, Remote Inflammation and Atherothrombosis, Laymen’s Statement
2. Ward, NL, IL-17C Mediated Mechanisms of Inflammation, Laymen’s Statement
3. Ward, NL, Neurogenic inflammation and psoriasiform dermatitis, Laymen’s Statement
4. Ward, NL, Identifying a role for Kallikrein 6 (KLK6) in psoriasis pathogenesis. Laymen’s Statement.