UT researchers receive prestigious grant to research the causes of a common skin disorder

The Danish LEO Foundation supports researchers of the University of Tartu with 220,000 euros to conduct laboratory studies to discover the causes of atopic dermatitis, a frequent skin disorder.

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease, which in many cases is of allergic character, but the causes of which are not exactly known. Researchers participating in the project want to study how the early molecular events in atopic dermatitis are influenced by the specific small RNA molecules, known as microRNAs.

To determine the potential of microRNAs for pharmaceutical development, the researchers plan to use ‘courier’ peptides that enable to transport molecules of different sizes into the cells.

“The skin is a very efficient biological barrier and so far, researchers’ attempts to deliver therapeutic proteins and nucleic acids through the skin have given poor results,” said the project leader, UT senior researcher Ana Rebane. “In the case of atopic dermatitis the skin barrier is significantly damaged and therefore we assume that with the help of certain courier peptides it is possible to deliver the therapeutic microRNAs into the skin lesion,” she adds.

Other participants in the cooperation-based project are Professor Külli Kingo, Head of the Dermatology Clinic of Tartu University Hospital, Professor Margus Pooga and Professor Ülo Langel of the UT Institute of Technology, and external partners Professor Stephan Weidinger from Kiel University and Professor Jesper Wengel from the University of Southern Denmark.

LEO Foundation is the owner and developer the Danish pharmaceutical company LEO Pharma, founded more than 100 years ago. To ensure the research-based nature of the company and the development of dermatology, the foundation has supported skin diseases research all over the world for several decades already. This is the first time Estonian researchers have received a LEO Foundation grant.

Additional information: Ana Rebane, UT Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine, Senior Research Fellow in RNA Biology, 737 4419, ana.rebane@ut.ee