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Development of peptide-based remedy to treat psoriasis and atopic dermatitis

Psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease, is an autoimmune disease that about 3% of adults in the world suffer from. Recently, it was found that a protein called STAT3 is the key cause of psoriasis. A few years ago, the research team was the first to find a peptide that degraded the function of a protein called STAT3 and developed it as an anticancer drug, but it had the disadvantage of thick keratin layers, causing a technical limit for targeted drug treatment. The present study was significant because it succeeded in curing psoriasis in an animal model and built a system that allowed efficient delivery in the skin by producing peptides as nanoparticles and delivering them through the skin.

The potential of a STAT3-inhibiting peptide for use in the inflammatory skin diseases

Atopy and psoriasis are types of autoimmune diseases. When inflammation occurs due to allergy or infection, immune cells in the body are activated. Afterwards, the symptoms worsen as the activated immune cells cause hyperplasia of skin cells around the inflamed area. The present study came from the fact that the STAT3 inhibitory peptide that had already been developed can prevent the inflammatory response by bonding to STAT3 existing in immune cells and keratinocytes and inhibiting its activation. A peptide is a hydrophilic material, so it cannot penetrate the skin and have a medicinal effect. To solve this problem, 30–40 nm disc-shaped nanoparticles were created by adequately mixing two types of phospholipid and STAT3 inhibitory peptides for formulation, and the generated disc-type nanoparticle complex was able to penetrate the keratin layer of the skin and effectively reach the dermal layer. They could have an anti-inflammatory effect by entering immune cells and inhibiting the function of STAT3 protein.

Applications of the STAT3-inhibiting peptide to treatments of other detrimental diseases

Atopy and psoriasis are chronic inflammatory skin diseases, and there are still no drugs that can completely cure them. Therefore, drugs should be used continuously to alleviate the symptoms. Existing steroid series drugs have adverse effects such as a decrease in immunity or edema, but the peptide drug developed by the research team has the advantage of having no adverse effects. “The peptide drug developed by this study has few adverse effects, and it is an ointment applied to the skin. Therefore, the clinical trial can be conducted in a short period of time,” said Professor Sangyong Jon. He also said that he expected the development to be continued by technology transfer to a relevant pharmaceutical company in the future. In the meantime, STAT3 protein also plays a key role in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, liver fibrosis and renal fibrosis, as well as in cancer, psoriasis and atopy. Therefore, the STAT3 inhibitory peptide drug that is the result of the present study is expected to broaden the treatment of various diseases. The present study was funded by the Global Research Lab Program and the Bio & Medical Technology Development Program of the National Research Foundation of Korea.

Prof. Sangyong Jon
2018 KI Annual Report

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