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Pathogenesis-based therapies in ichthyoses


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Peter M. Elias, MD, Dermatology Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Department of Dermatology, University of California, 4150 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121, or email:


During the past 20 years, tremendous progress has been made in our understanding of the molecular basis of many genetic skin conditions. The translation of these laboratory findings into effective therapies for affected individuals has been slow, however, in large part due to the risk of carcinogenesis from random viral genomic integration and the lack of efficacy of topically applied genetic material and most proteins. As intervention at the gene level still appears remote for most genetic disorders, increased knowledge about the cellular and biochemical pathogenesis of disease allows specific targeting of pathways with existing and/or novel drugs and molecules. In contrast to the requirement for personalization of most gene-based approaches, pathogenesis-based therapy is pathway specific, and in theory, it should have broader applicability. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the pathoetiology of the various types of ichthyoses and demonstrate how a pathogenesis-based approach can potentially lead to innovative treatments for these conditions. Notably, this strategy has been successfully validated for the treatment of the rare X-linked dominant condition, CHILD syndrome, in which topical applications of cholesterol and lovastatin together to affected skin resulted in marked improvement of the skin phenotype.