Green tea could become a new treatment for skin disorders such as psoriasis and dandruff in the near future. Medical College of Georgia researchers studied a model for inflammatory skin diseases, which are often characterized by dry, red, flaky skin patches caused by the inflammation and overproduction of skin cells. Those treated with green tea showed slower growth of skin cells and the presence of a gene that regulates the cells’ life cycles.
“Psoriasis, an autoimmune disease, causes the skin to become thicker because the growth of skin cells is out of control,” says Dr. Stephen Hsu, a biologist in the MCG School of Dentistry and lead investigator on the study appearing in the August 18 edition of Experimental Dermotology. “In psoriasis, immune cells, which usually protect against infection, instead trigger the release of cytokines, which causes inflammation and the overproduction of skin cells.” Other autoimmune diseases with similar side effects include lupus, which can lead to skin lesions and dandruff.
Green tea has previously been shown to suppress inflammation. Green tea compounds aid by regulating the expression of Caspase-14, a protein in genes that regulates the life cycle of a skin cell. “That marker guides cells by telling them when to differentiate, die off and form a skin barrier,” Hsu says. “In people with psoriasis, that process is interrupted and the skin cells don’t die before more are created and the resulting lesions form.”
Models treated with green tea also showed reduced levels of proliferating cell nuclear antigen, a gene expressed when skin cells multiply. In psoriasis, the gene is over-expressed and speeds production of skin cells. The research is relevant because some treatments for psoriasis and dandruff can have dangerous side effects. The traditional treatment of ultraviolet light and medication, while it can control lesions and be used long term, may cause cell carcinoma and lead to skin cancer. Green tea, which is plant-derived, may be an alternative. There is no cure for autoimmune diseases, but green tea may provide a non-toxic treatment for regulating them.
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