Injections of an immune system protein can alleviate skin problems in people with psoriasis, a German-Dutch research team reports. The well-tolerated protein, called interleukin-4, works as well as a powerful standard therapy known to cause severe side effects. If the results are confirmed in larger studies, interleukin-4 could offer an alternative therapy for this difficult-to-treat disease.
Psoriasis is marked by an overproduction of skin cells. The scaly skin that results causes itching, burning, and pain. Scientists consider the disease an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system attacks a person's own tissues.
The researchers instructed 22 patients with moderate-to-severe psoriasis to inject themselves with interleukin-4 three times a day for 6 weeks. Eight other patients received photochemotherapy, the most potent therapy currently in use. In this treatment, patients expose their skin to ultraviolet light and take the immune-suppressing drug methotrexate. A