Tackling psoriasis with BSF funded research
BSF catches up with Dr Kehinde Ross
New survey data has just shown that 84% of people face discrimination and humiliation due to their skin. We’ve caught up with Dr Kehinde Ross to find out how your generous donations and hard-earned fundraising money is being spent on his British Skin Foundation funded research into psoriasis.
Can you explain your role and why you got involved in skin disease research?
I am a Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, where I lead a research programme focused on inflammatory skin diseases. My research on skin started from a somewhat esoteric interest in how calcium ions (which are abundant in some subcellular compartments) drive inflammatory processes in cells. What I did not know then was just how debilitating a skin disorder like psoriasis can be. Hearing the stories of people with psoriasis made me realise this was an area where my research could make a difference based on understanding how small genetic molecules called microRNAs contribute to skin inflammation.
Last year the BSF awarded you a small grant, can you explain a little bit about the research and what it hopes to achieve?
Many microRNAs have been implicated in psoriasis but one in particular, microRNA-21, seems to drive the development of the inflamed psoriatic lesions. With the BSF small grant I am trying to understand how microRNA-21 levels are raised in skin cells and to explore the potential of certain drug-like molecules to block the elevation of microRNA-21. The interesting findings obtained so far have already been bundled into a follow-on grant proposal.
Can you give us a quick insight into your typical working day?
As much as possible I spend the mornings drafting grant proposals. That might involve surveying research papers to figure out what has been done in an area of interest, designing novel experimental strategies to address research questions or drawing a molecular pathway to make research concepts easy (or easier!) to understand. In the afternoons, I will usually attend to administrative matters, analyse data or pop into the lab to see research students and set up experiments. Of course there are days when lectures and practical sessions with undergraduate students mean that not much grant writing or lab work gets done. But I love engaging students with molecular bioscience and hope I inspire them with an appreciation of science as a tool for leaving the world a better place than they found it.
What do you think the future is for psoriasis research and/or skin disease research in general?
The exciting work going on to stratify patient responses to the “biologics” used for psoriasis treatment means that we will soon be able to offer tailored therapy to match a patient’s molecular profile. However, biologics tend to be reserved only for the most serious forms of psoriasis. Exploiting the vast databases of genetic data we now have from psoriasis skin biopsies, we may see efforts to stratify responses of patients with mild-to-moderate psoriasis to more widely prescribed psoriasis drugs. With growing commercial appetite for microRNA-directed medicine, we can also expect clinical trials using anti-microRNA approaches in the near future. For skin disease as a whole, it is going to be exciting to see if we will finally be able to offer real, lasting solutions to patients with severe genetic skin disorders like epidermolysis bullosa using the ground-breaking gene editing technology that has received much media coverage lately.
Why is BSF funding so important to your work?
My research simply would not happen without the support of the BSF. As a mid-career scientist with a strong vision for a sustainable programme of dermatological research at Liverpool John Moores University, the funding from the BSF has been crucial in generating preliminary data and securing the interest of local, national and international collaborators to support our mission.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Dr Ross.