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When the cover burns

With around 2 square meters the skin is the largest organ in humans. It is the central barrier of the body against the environment and protects against invading pathogens, foreign substances, mechanical stress or the loss of body fluids. But recently the skins gets more frequently chronical inflammed.

More than two million people in Germany alone suffer from psoriasis and atopic eczema better known as neurodermatitis. The main symptomes of this chronic inflammations are red flaking areas of the skin and strong itching. An increasing number of young children are affected.

The immune systeme is disturbed

Both diseases are caused by a disturbance of the immune system. In psoriasis the immune system inadvertently directs itself against body cells instead of protecting the body against harmful foreign substances. This causes an increased horn production, flaking and an inflammation of the skin.

In contrast to that neurodermatitis is caused by a reaction to foreign substances like house dust mite, pollen, cosmetics or certain food products. This so called allergens activate certain messangers which cause an immune reaction and an inflammation.

Nowadays its known that certain genetic factors can play a crucial role in the development of inflammatory skin diseases. In conjunction with yet still unknown environmental factors minimal genetic percularities can cause a severe immune activity, which can spread to the whole body. Who suffers from psoriasis is more likely to get further inflammatory diseases like inflammed joints or diseases of the cardiovascular system.

Till now a cure for psoriasis or neurodermatitis is not available. To prevent an inflammation it is necessary to avoid individual causing factors like cerain soaps or food products. In addition more and more drugs are available which can specifically modulate the hyperactive immune systems. Creams and salves with immune modulating substances act specifically on highly active pro-inflammatory messangers (Cytokines) and can therefore reduce the symptomes.

Focus: Center for Autoimmune Blistering Diseases

Autoimmune blistering diseases belong to the serious, sometimes life-threatening skin diseases, which up to now have been difficult to treat and deemed incurable. Each year, the number of new cases numbers around 3,000. Characteristic for this disease is the severe blistering, which occurs on the skin and mucous membranes of those affected, which can cause extensive peeling.

Prof. Detlef Zillikens, a member of the Excellence Cluster, has been dealing with autoimmune blistering for more than 20 years. At the Department of Dermotology in Lübeck, he has initiated a group of experts which deals specifically with the treatment and the research as to the cause. The clinic is a national and international reference center for the diagnosis and treatment of patients with autoimmune blistering diseases and is one of three centers in Germany with special expertise for these skin diseases.

Current research results and news

Using heat shock proteins against autoimmune blistering dermatoses

1 June 2011: In search of a therapy, the group of experts under the leadership of Dr. Kasperkiewicz successfully took a quantam leap this year, leading to a significant reduction of the disease and to a suppression of the autoantibody formation. The research was published in Blood in cooperation with Prof. Orosz (Hungary). The project was supported by the German Research Foundation. Link to the publication:


From left to right: Moritz Magens, Dr. Ralf Müller, Dr. Michael Kasperkiewicz, Prof. Detlef Zillikens, Christoph Hammers, Prof. Rudolf Manz

International consortium of scientists discovered ten new risk genes for psoriasis

19 October 2010: In three different studies investigating the causes of psoriasis, scientists from Germany, Canada, the United States and China have discovered ten new risk genes for psoriasis. The German study was carried out under the leadership of Prof. André Franke and Prof. Michael Weichenthal, both from the Inflammation Research Excellence Cluster. It ran for 2.5 years, with more than 14,500 participants – approximately 6,500 psoriasis sufferers and 8,000 healthy people. The gene TRAF3IP2, a gene variant that increases the probability of the occurance of psoriasis, was the first found in the study. The study is the first German study of this magnitude. More under:  Press Releases

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