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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 June, 2005, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Hope for skin complaint sufferers
John Young
John Young says his psoriasis has been devastating
Patients suffering from an irritating skin condition have been given new hope thanks to scientists on Tyneside.

A team at Newcastle University has discovered that an ointment, dithranol, used to soothe psoriasis actually kills the cells that cause the problem.

It is believed the discovery will pave the way towards better treatments for the UK's one million sufferers.

The team was led by Professor Nick Reynolds and Dr Mark Birch-Machin, of the skin research group.

Currently the drug is only used in hospitals for severe cases of the disease because if misused can cause burning and discolour clothing.

Genetic condition

Prof Reynolds and his team are now hoping that more effective ways of administering the drug will be found.

Dithranol is a compound derived from the araroba tree found in the rain forests of the Amazon.

Prof Reynolds said: "Most people suffering an episode of psoriasis that requires treatment with dithranol have to either attend hospital as an outpatient five days a week, or be admitted for a three-week period.

"In modern life, this is far from ideal. These findings represent an important step towards the development of better-designed treatments for psoriasis sufferers."

Psoriasis is a genetic condition which, when triggered by certain factors such as injury or throat infection, leads to an over-production of skin cells.

These are called keratinocytes and cause a thickening of the skin, resulting in the raised red, scaly patches of psoriasis.

John Young said his psoriasis has "devastated" his whole life.

"Kids used to try to bully me about it. Even adults in hospital have said 'he looks like a lepper'."

See one psoriasis sufferer talk about his condition

Breakthrough on psoriasis cause
17 Nov 04 |  Health
People with psoriasis 'shunned'
27 Oct 04 |  Health

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