Hope for Autoimmune Skin Disorder Sufferers with New Immunotherapy Strategy

Researchers, led by University of Melbourne’s Professor Laura Mackay, a Laboratory Head and Immunology Theme Leader at the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), discovered distinct mechanisms controlling different types of immune cells.

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.

“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, Senior Research Officer in the Mackay Lab at the Doherty Institute and co-first author of the study.

In this groundbreaking study published in Science, 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.

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 without compromising immune protection.


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. (2023, November 30). Hope for autoimmune skin disorder sufferers with new immunotherapy strategy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 1, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/11/231130145438.htm