New test may guide treatment of common skin diseases

Dermatologists routinely do skin biopsies to figure out what’s wrong with their patients. They study tissue under a microscope – looking at the structure of cells, but a Charlottesville company says doctors could treat disease more precisely by looking at genetics.

“Genetics are what we’re born with. Gene expression is what happens when they get opened up and turned on. When your cell gets a signal, 20,000 genes can be turned on and off like light switches,” says Amrie Grammar, COO of Ampel Biosolutions in Charlottesville. She describes patterns of gene expression as genomic finger prints that can be compared with the prints of other patients who have responded well to different drugs.

“Ampel has collected 15,000 individual patient gene expression profiles. There are a lot of biologic drugs available, but determining which one is the right drug for the right person at the right time is a big challenge.” “

Late next year, dermatologists will be able to submit a biopsy for genetic analysis and Ampel will then identify the best drugs for treatment. The test is called DermaGENE, and research explaining how it works is now published in the journal Science Advances.