I Started Luma Therapeutics to Help Psoriasis Patients Like Me
Are you familiar with this story?
Every morning I smeared lotion onto the psoriasis plaques on my legs and by afternoon the lotion had stained my socks, the burning and itching had returned, and I reeked of coal tar.
Clinician after clinician (most of whom do not suffer from psoriasis) told me that topical therapies are effective for mild-to-moderate psoriasis. My experience was the opposite. While searching message boards and social media, I discovered many people in the same situation. Topical treatments often provide benefits but are messy and time-consuming to apply, and sometimes stop working altogether. For me and many others, topical creams reduced the symptoms of psoriasis, but never provided complete relief.
After years of contending with itchy red bumps on my lower leg, I decided to seek a new remedy and began to tinker with coal tar, a thick dark liquid which doesn’t require a prescription. Coincidentally, I worked for a company that manufactured wound care products and I had ready access to occlusive dressings that I thought could help.
I used one of these dressings to cover the plaque after carefully applying coal tar lotion. A single application lasted for several days with the dual advantages of preventing me from scratching and protecting my clothes from the coal tar between my tri-weekly outdoor water polo practices. During these practices, my legs were exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, which is the final element of my personal regimen. I immediately noticed that my plaque stopped itching and shrank in thickness.
Being a compulsive bioengineering nerd, I decided to track my treatment progress by periodically taking pictures (images below).
The image quality is poor because I took these photos with my phone, but they clearly show that in two weeks my psoriasis faded away. In fact, it remained in remission for two years. As I investigated the reason for my success, I realized that my “triple therapy” (coal tar, occlusive dressing, and light), is very similar to the Goeckerman Regimen, which was invented over a century ago at the Mayo Clinic. The primary difference is that this regimen uses ultraviolet light (UV) instead of the direct sunlight I received during outdoor water polo practices. Though effective, it is currently only available in a few clinics because it is resource intensive and requires multiple hours of in-clinic treatments every day for several weeks.
In evaluating this therapy, I believed others could perform it at home but it needed to be simplified. The first step was development of an occlusive dressing containing coal tar, which could be worn for several days. Then, because the Goeckerman Regimen requires exposure to UV light every day, we created a UV light source from LEDs the same size as the dressing. Finally, we had to make the dressing transparent in order to allow daily light therapy without frequent dressing changes.
Sounds simple, right? Well, not exactly! There were tough technical design challenges before the Luma Light System™ became a reality. In subsequent blog posts, I’ll discuss the journey we’ve undertaken to design this product to be effective and easy to use at home.
I love this work because I know that it will make a difference to millions of people like me. At Luma Therapeutics, our team is working around the clock to bring great affordable skin therapies to people who need them and to clinically prove the effectiveness of our products. Helping you, my fellow psoriasis sufferer, is why I founded Luma Therapeutics. You can reach me anytime with questions or comments through email.
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