The Dermatology Branch conducts clinical and basic investigations of skin biology and researches the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of skin disease. Biochemical and biological studies of skin are carried out in the laboratories and the clinic. Research areas include:

  • The skin as an immunological organ and the role of tissue-leukocyte-microbiota crosstalk in mediating immunological and structural homeostasis.
  • Inflammatory skin diseases in patients and in murine models.
  • The human microbiome in healthy individuals as well as patients with atopic dermatitis and selected primary immunodeficiencies.
  • Long-term clinical and laboratory studies and investigator-initiated therapeutic trials in chronic graft-versus-host disease.
  • Skin stem cells.
  • Cutaneous malignancies, including Merkel cell carcinoma.

Observational and interventional clinical studies are conducted in the Branch involving patients with a broad range of diseases. Some studies are led by Branch investigators while others are performed in collaboration with outside investigators.

Clinical Care

portrait of Edward W. Cowen M.D. M.H.Sc.

Dermatology Consultation Service

Led by Edward W. Cowen, M.D., M.H.Sc., the Dermatology Consultation Service is one of the busiest clinical services in the NIH Clinical Research Center and is responsible for all outpatient and inpatient dermatologic care. It evaluates and treats patients with a variety of rare diseases with cutaneous manifestations as well as any patients who experience adverse reactions to experimental therapeutic agents or manifest unrelated skin conditions while at the NIH.

portrait of Leslie Castelo-Soccio.

Leslie Castelo-Soccio, M.D., Ph.D., is board certified in dermatology and pediatric dermatology. Her primary research interests are hair disorders and autoimmune disease. She is principal investigator on a natural history study of immune-mediated alopecia in children and adults (NCT05502796 - currently recruiting participants). This protocol evaluates the natural history of alopecia and factors such as genes, the immune system, and the microbiome that may contribute to its evolution.


portrait of Isaac Brownell, M.D., Ph.D.

Cutaneous Development and Carcinogenesis Section

Led by Isaac Brownell, M.D., Ph.D., the lab studies signaling pathways, such as Hedgehog signaling, that regulate the development and maintenance of normal skin, and the changes in these signals that occur during the formation of skin cancer.

portrait of Heidi Kong,  M.D., M.H.Sc.

Cutaneous Microbiome and Inflammation Section

Led by Heidi H. Kong, M.D., M.H.Sc., the lab studies the skin microbiome in healthy individuals with the goal of expanding our understanding of host-microbe interactions.

portrait of Keisuke (Chris) Nagao, M.D., Ph.D.

Cutaneous Leukocyte Biology Section

Led by Keisuke (Chris) Nagao, M.D., Ph.D., the lab studies hair follicle (HF) immunology and mechanisms of microbiome-driven eczematous inflammation in mice.


The Dermatology Branch has a long tradition as a laboratory and clinical fellowship training center. Many of our fellows have gone on to become outstanding physician/scientists and leaders in investigative dermatology in the United States and abroad. Learn more about our training programs.

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