UCSF Researchers Publish Summary of Skin Sodium's Possible Role in Immune Dysregulation

A team of investigators from the Abuabara Lab at UC San Francisco, UCSF Radiology and the University of Arizona reviewed available literature on skin sodium to investigate its connection to total body sodium and to immunity.

The study, "Sodium in the skin: a summary of the physiology and a scoping review of disease associations," was published in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. Aheli Chattopadhyay, a medical student at the UCSF School of Medicine, is the first author, and Katrina Abuabara, MD, of UCSF Dermatology is the senior author. Authors from UCSF Radiology include Michael Ohliger, MD, PhD, and Jeremy Gordon, PhD.

"The collaboration between researchers in the departments of Radiology and Dermatology has been an exciting example of UCSF bringing different specialties together to support innovating patient care," says Dr. Ohliger.

The team investigated the role of skin sodium as it relates to total body sodium and the findings expand upon the traditional views of sodium homeostasis that focus on blood pressure and the kidneys. The investigator also pointed to skin sodium's possible role in immune dysregulation.

"With the advent of new noninvasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurement techniques and continued research on skin sodium, it may emerge as a marker of immune-mediated disease activity or a potential therapeutic target," write Chattopadhyay et al.

The team conducted a literature review of articles about skin sodium and disease outcomes, and they found that the concentration of skin sodium is increased in patients with:

  • Cardiometabolic conditions like hypertension, diabetes and end-stage renal disease
  • Autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis and systemic sclerosis
  • Dermatological conditions like atopic dermatitis, psoriasis sand lipoedema

"Conventional MRI produces images from water and fat," says Dr. Gordon. "With specialized hardware at UCSF, we can produce images directly from sodium in the body, potentially replacing the need for invasive skin biopsies and providing unique insight into the relationship between skin sodium and disease severity."

Findings suggest "an important role for skin sodium in physiological processes related to osmoregulation and immunity," write the authors.

Dr. Abuabara is an associate professor at UCSF Dermatology and the director of the Abuabara Lab. Dr. Ohliger is an associate professor at UCSF Radiology, the director of research operations at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and the modality director for MRI. Dr. Gordon is an assistant professor at UCSF Radiology. Additional co-authors of the article include Judy Shan, Sidra Sheikh and Theodora Mauro, MD, of UCSF Dermatology and Janell Tully of the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Read more about research and news at UCSF Radiology on our blog.


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