50 years ago, scientists were seeking the cause of psoriasis

Excerpt from the April 29, 1972 issue of Science News

a photo of a hand scratching red scaly skin on a person's elbow. Only the person's torso and arms are in frame.

Psoriasis affects 2 to 3 percent of people around the world. Itchy patches of scaly skin commonly show up on the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back and palms, among other areas.

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cover of the April 29, 1972 issue of Science News

Cyclic AMP and psoriasis — Science News, April 29, 1972

[A team of dermatologists] discovered that cyclic AMP levels in psoriasis lesions are significantly lower than in healthy skin.… [The team] is now trying to find out if the cyclic AMP deficiency causes psoriasis and to develop a medication to increase cyclic AMP levels in psoriasis lesions.


Psoriasis, which affects 2 to 3 percent of the global population, is an inflammatory skin disease marked by red, scaly patches that itch or burn. Low levels of cyclic AMP — a chemical messenger key to cellular communication — haven’t been found to cause the disease. Psoriasis stems from an overactive immune response. Cyclic AMP is just one player alongside other chemical messengers and immune cells, and certain gene variants can make a person more susceptible. The choice among a range of treatment options today depends in part on the severity of the disease and the areas of the body affected. One drug, called apremilast, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014, increases levels of cyclic AMP, among other actions.

Aimee Cunningham is the biomedical writer. She has a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University.

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