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Spatial transcriptomics technology gives insights into causality of non-communicable inflammatory skin diseases

Featured Publication, ICB,

Which factors drive non-communicable inflammatory skin diseases? A research team led by Stefanie Eyerich, Michael Menden, as well as Kilian Eyerich have investigated this question and applied a new spatial transcriptomics technology, that gives unprecedented insights into the causality of non-communicable inflammatory skin diseases. These new findings may empower the development of curative therapies. The results were now published in Nature Communications.

Non-communicable inflammatory skin diseases (ncISD), such as psoriasis or atopic eczema, are a major cause of disease burden. Chronic skin inflammations are heterogenous and are driven by a complex interplay of genetics and environmental factors. Despite their heterogeneity, most ncISD can be categorized according to adaptive immune pathways based on the interaction of distinct lymphocyte subsets with the epithelium. However, targeted diagnosis and treatments still remain a challenge for modern medicine. More granular information regarding the profile, kinetics and spatial distribution of cytokine-secreting immune cells is needed.

A research team around Stefanie Eyerich, Michael Menden and Kilian Eyerich now investigated the adaptive immune responses in lesional and non-lesional skin of ncISD, using new spatial transcriptomics technologies. They found out that these diseases typically are driven by infiltration of large number of immune cells, but only a few actually drive the disease pathology. These disease-driving cells produce low numbers of cytokine transcripts, which then translate into thousand-fold higher induction of pro-inflammatory response genes. Spatial transcriptomics enabled the investigation of ncISDs on a spatial resolution, which may pave the way for targeted treatments of these conditions.

Christina Hillig, one of the first authors of the paper, highlights: “For this project, we have developed a novel density-based clustering algorithm for spatial transcriptomics.” Co-first author Alexander Schäbitz adds: “Our novel spatial approach study ncISD reveals never seen details of the disease pathology.


Original publication

Schäbitz et al. (2022): Spatial transcriptomics landscape of lesions from non-communicable inflammatory skin diseases. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-35319-w

About the scientists

Prof. Dr. Stefanie Eyerich, Center for Allergy and Environment (ZAUM) at Helmholtz Munich and Technical University Munich (TUM)

Dr. Michael Menden, Junior Group Leader at the Institute of Computational Biology at Helmholtz Munich.

Funding information
This work is supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) through TUM International Graduate School of Science and Engineering (IGSSE).


Michael Menden

Dr. Michael Menden

Junior Group Leader