How a lipid drug may be used as a new psoriasis treatment

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In a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers recently determined whether a lipid drug could be used as a new psoriasis treatment.

Psoriasis is a skin condition where the normal life cycle of skin cells is accelerated. The deposit of dead cells in the surface of the skin produces scales and red patches that may be itchy or painful. Psoriasis is a non-infectious chronic disease with immune and genetic causes. The white cells in the blood act normally as the first line of defence in the body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign substances. In people with psoriasis, the white cells become very sensitive and start attacking healthy skin cells, treating them as foreign organisms.

A recent study with a topical application of the lipid phosphatidylglycerol (PG) on a mouse model was effective in reducing inflammation and decreasing the elevated skin lesions.  Previous works have already demonstrated that  PG can regulate skin cell function and suppress skin inflammation. The new study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology showed that PG can block the toll-like receptor activation in the skin cells. Toll-like receptors identify foreign substances and activate the immune response

Toll-like receptors are the ones that identify foreign substances and activate an immune response. It has been proved that several anti-microbial proteins increase in people with psoriasis, and the level of such proteins is related to the severity of the disease. However,  reduces the concentration of anti-microbial proteins.

PG suppresses the activation of the anti-microbial proteins

The study tested the use of PG to suppress the activation of the anti-microbial proteins in a mouse with psoriasis-like lesions. The psoriasis-like lesions were induced by imiquimod, a drug commonly used to treat basal cell carcinoma and actinic keratosis. The results confirmed the role of PG in reducing the activation of the anti-microbial proteins, decreasing skin inflammation. The PG inhibitory effect was also dose-dependent. This means that higher doses had a greater effect in decreasing skin inflammation.

This work raises the possibility that PG may be normally produced in the body to decrease or heal inflammation created by the skin exposure to microorganisms and other substances, and that this natural process may be altered in psoriasis and other diseases.

PG may be an effective topical treatment

The authors conclude that PG may be an effective topical treatment for non-infectious inflammation, such as psoriasis and other skin diseases, and corneal disorders such as chemical burns and dry eye syndrome, among other inflammatory diseases.

Topical treatments for psoriasis include corticosteroids, which reduce the skin inflammation; vitamin D, which acts slowing skin cells growth; topical retinoids which are vitamin A derivatives; salicylic acid; and moisturizers, among others. The discovery of a new topical medication to treat psoriasis gives hope to many patients affected by this chronic disease.

Written by Dr. Ana C. Freitas, MD.


  1. Choudhary V, Uaratanawong R,et al. Phosphatidylglycerol inhibits toll-like receptor-mediated inflammation by danger-associated molecular patterns.The Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2018).
  2. Lipid that aids normal skin turnover may help psoriasis. Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, November 27, 2018.
  3. “Psoriasis – Symptoms And Causes”. Mayo Clinic, 2018, Accessed 23 Dec 2018.

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