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Emerging Data Point To Role Of Cytokine IL-31 In Allergic Skin Conditions In Canines

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 8:08 am EDT


VANCOUVER, British Columbia
"Scientific advances in neuroscience, immunology and dermatology have shown that the pathobiology of pruritus is multifactorial—in animals as well as humans"

VANCOUVER, British Columbia--Data to be presented this week at the 7th World Congress of Veterinary Dermatology (WCVD) Meeting 2012 will report new insights into the disease pathways involved in allergic conditions in dogs, Pfizer Animal Health announced today.

Researchers with Pfizer Animal Health’s Global Therapeutic Research Group have, for the first time, identified a potential role for the cytokine IL-31 in triggering itch responses in dogs. The research indicates that canine IL-31 (cIL-31) triggers the activation of the JAK/STAT signal transduction pathway on cells that express receptors for IL-31 and may interact with IL-31 receptors on neurons to initiate a signal that travels along the nerve to the brain and results in itching in dogs.

“This work conducted by the research team demonstrates that the pathways involved in itchy conditions in dogs are similar to those recognized in the last decade in human dermatologic conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and allergic contact dermatitis,” said Candace Sousa, DVM, DABVP, DACVD, a dermatologist and senior veterinary specialist with the Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Specialty Team. “The development of new treatments aimed at improving itch heavily relies on scientific advances such as these, which help uncover the neurochemical and immunologic basis of the itch reaction.”

Discovery research presented by Andrea J. Gonzales, PhD, associate research fellow in Global Therapeutic Research at Pfizer Animal Health, investigated the biological function of cIL-31. Results from these studies showed that cIL-31 can activate JAK/STAT pathways in cells that express the cIL-31 receptor and induce pruritus, or itching, in dogs. Serum IL-31 was also detectable in the majority of dogs with naturally occurring atopic dermatitis, suggesting this cytokine may play an important role in this common pruritic skin condition in dogs. When itch occurs in dermatologic conditions in dogs, as well as humans, the scratching and other pruritic behaviors that result—such as rubbing and chewing—can cause further damage to the skin and initiate a cycle of itch that isdifficult to relieve.

“Research by Dr. Gonzales and team provides important new insights that demonstrate that further investigation into new therapies targeting these disease pathways is warranted,” Sousa said.

Related research presented by Erin E. McCandless, PhD, principal scientist in Global Therapeutic Research at Pfizer Animal Health, investigated the mechanism by which cIL-31 may be involved in the perpetuation of disease by identifying cellular sources of cIL-31 and cells that respond to this cytokine. Results indicated that canine T helper type 2 cells are a source of cIL-31. The findings also showed that monocytic cells, keratinocytes and neuronal cells express the cIL-31 receptor and represent cells that may respond to cIL-31.

“Scientific advances in neuroscience, immunology and dermatology have shown that the pathobiology of pruritus is multifactorial—in animals as well as humans,” said Valerie Fadok, DVM, PhD, DACVD, staff dermatologist at Gulf Coast Veterinary Dermatology and Allergy, Houston, Texas.

“Treatments aimed at improving itch in atopic and allergic dogs heavily rely on these advances. Additional research is needed to understand the causes of pruritus, to measure pruritus successfully and to develop new, successful therapies.”

About Pfizer Animal Health

Pfizer Animal Health, a business unit of Pfizer Inc, is a world leader in the discovery, development and manufacture of innovative animal health vaccines, medicines, diagnostic products and genetic tests. We work to assure a safe, sustainable global food supply from healthy beef and dairy cattle, swine, poultry, sheep and fish while helping dogs, cats and horses live healthier longer lives. We strive to be the animal health company that provides full healthcare solutions to veterinarians, livestock producers, and pet owners. To learn more, visit https://animalhealth.pfizer.com.

The following Pfizer data focused on allergic skin conditions will be presented at WCVD:

These new pathways are also described in an article—“Current Understanding of the Pathophysiologic Mechanisms of Canine Atopic Dermatitis”—in the July 15 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (Marsella R, Sousa C, Gonzales A, Fadok V. JAVMA. Jul. 15, 2012; 241(2): 194-207).


For further information, Contact:
Deron Johnson
Pfizer Animal Health
Emily Dahlbeck