A protein could hold the answer to helpful therapies for skin problems such as psoriasis, a chronic skin disease affecting more than 100 million people globally.

The protein is a fragment of a bigger molecule, JARID2, which researchers previously believed only existed in the developing embryo where its role is to coordinate the formation of tissues and organs

The research team however, led by Dr Aditi Kanhere from the University of Birmingham’s School of Biosciences, England, found a shortened form of the protein in adult skin cells.

The protein, dubbed N-JARID2, was found to be responsible for ensuring adult skin cells “differentiate” to become a more specialised cell type.

“In some diseases, cells lose their ability to differentiate, and reproduce more rapidly. Being able to redirect cells back to their usual life cycle could alleviate the processes behind the disease,” says Dr Kanhere.

This is what happens in people with psoriasis, caused by the rapid reproduction of skin cells which are pushed to the surface of the skin too quickly and results in flaky, crusty red patches and silvery scales.

The research shows a presence of N-JARID2 in the skin layers where it ensures the tissues maintain their usual state of differentiation – a necessary process in the formation of skin layers.

Researchers are now investigating how N-JARID2 is generated and exploring how it may be able to be used in skin therapies for people with troublesome skin conditions.