Hope for Autoimmune Skin Disorder Sufferers with New Immunotherapy Strategy

Researchers discovered distinct mechanisms controlling different types of immune cells, and found that, by precisely targeting these mechanisms, they could selectively eliminate ‘problematic cells’ and reshape the skin’s immune landscape.

Our skin is packed with specialized immune cells that protect against infections and cancer and promote healing.

These cells, called tissue-resident T cells or TRM cells, stay in place to fight infections and cancerous cells in the skin.

However, when not controlled properly, some of these skin TRM cells can contribute to autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis and vitiligo.

Dr Simone Park, lead first author of the study, said that this research is the first to describe the unique elements that control various types of skin TRM cells in animal models, offering precise targets for potential treatment strategies.

“We discovered key differences in how distinct types of skin T cells are regulated, allowing us to precisely edit the skin’s immune landscape in a targeted way.”

Dr Susan Christo, co-first author of the study, explained how these discoveries could advance efforts to treat skin disease.

“Most autoimmune therapies treat the symptoms of the disease rather than addressing the cause. Conventional treatments for skin disorders often impact all immune cells indiscriminately, meaning that we could also be wiping out our protective T cells,” said Dr Christo.

“Until now, we didn’t know how to pick apart ‘bad’ T cells in the skin from the ‘good’ protective ones. Through this research, we discovered new molecules that allow us to selectively remove disease-causing T cells in the skin.”

In this groundbreaking study the research team harnessed this new knowledge to eliminate ‘problematic’ cells that can drive autoimmune disorders, while preserving the ‘good’ ones that are essential to maintain protective immunity.

University of Melbourne’s Professor Laura Mackay, senior author of the study, explained that these findings could pave the way for more precise and long-lasting therapies for skin disease.

With the study demonstrating successful removal of specific skin T cells in animal models, further research is necessary to validate the efficacy of these strategies in human subjects.

Dr Park hopes the study will inspire the development of new treatments for skin disease.


Simone L. Park, Susan N. Christo, Alexandria C. Wells, Luke C. Gandolfo, Ali Zaid, Yannick O. Alexandre, Thomas N. Burn, Jan Schröder, Nicholas Collins, Seong-Ji Han, Stéphane M. Guillaume, Maximilien Evrard, Clara Castellucci, Brooke Davies, Maleika Osman, Andreas Obers, Keely M. McDonald, Huimeng Wang, Scott N. Mueller, George Kannourakis, Stuart P. Berzins, Lisa A. Mielke, Francis R. Carbone, Axel Kallies, Terence P. Speed, Yasmine Belkaid, Laura K. Mackay. Divergent molecular networks program functionally distinct CD8 + skin-resident memory T cells. Science, 2023; 382 (6674): 1073 DOI: 10.1126/science.adi8885

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. “Hope for autoimmune skin disorder sufferers with new immunotherapy strategy.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 November 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/11/231130145438.htm>.

Materials provided by The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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