The skin functions as an active protective barrier able to respond to foreign agents with innate and adaptive immune responses. This program focuses on all aspects of the immunobiology of the skin.
One area of interest includes basic studies of the regulation of skin immune responses, including immune system cellular components such as dendritic or Langerhans cells, macrophages, monocytes, eosinophils, natural killer cells, mast cells, and T cells; the characterization of their antigens and/or other ligands; and the soluble mediators that they express, including antimicrobial peptides.
In addition, keratinocytes are crucial elements of cutaneous immune responses, and upon activation, express cytokines, chemokines, antimicrobial peptides and accessory molecules which can regulate innate and adaptive immune responses.
Understanding the interactions among skin components during an immune response is critical to modulate the system for the purposes of vaccine development and tolerance induction.
The Inflammatory Response
Dysregulation of key signal transduction pathways and abnormal expression of key inflammatory mediators or their receptors in the skin are relevant to the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis. These diseases and autoimmune diseases such as pemphigus, vitiligo, and alopecia areata are major areas of focus of this program as well. Supported studies range from determining the complex pathogenesis of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (including large genetic studies to identify genes associated with risk of disease and the subsequent definition of their specific roles using relevant animal models) to translational, comparative effectiveness studies and clinical research aimed at the diagnosis, treatment, prediction, and prevention of diseases.
In addition, inflammation is involved in wound healing and may play a role in the mechanism of itch. The elucidation of the molecular basis of itch, as well as the study of nervous system mediators that deregulate the immune response in the context of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases is highly encouraged. Studies of immune surveillance and evasion of the immune system by tumors in the skin, including melanoma, and studies of immune cell proliferative disorders of the skin, such as mastocytosis and cutaneous T cell lymphoma are of potential interest in this program. Studies of microbe-host interactions and of diseases triggered by bacterial, viral, or fungal skin infections, such as leprosy, acne, and post-herpetic neuralgia are considered. Studies focusing on the role of the skin microbiome on all immune mediated skin diseases are highly encouraged.