Keratinocyte Biology and Diseases Program

Reviewed July 12, 2013

Research Areas

Skin functions as a barrier between us and the outside world, with the keratinocytes of the epidermis forming the outermost barrier. This program focuses on the biology and diseases of the epidermis and skin appendages (hair follicles and sebaceous glands), and includes (but is not limited to) the following areas of skin biology and disease. The development of the epidermis and appendages; the regulation of the proliferation and differentiation of keratinocytes; the role of epigenetics and noncoding RNAs; and the formation and function of the epidermal barrier are included. Stem cells reside both within the epidermis and the hair follicle and play important roles in epidermal homeostasis, hair follicle cycling and wound healing. Research includes stem cell self-renewal, fate and lineage commitment, as well as therapeutic applications of skin stem cells. Many structural proteins such as the keratins, components of cell adhesion and communications complexes (e.g., desmosomes and hemidesmosomes) and components of the cornified envelope (e.g., loricrin and filaggrin) play important roles in maintaining the structural integrity of the epidermis and in barrier formation. Mutations in regulatory and structural proteins are responsible for a number of genetic skin diseases, including the ectodermal dysplasias, ichthyoses, alopecias, and epidermolysis bullosa. Areas of active research for genetic skin diseases include identification of genes and mutations, pathogenesis of the disease and development of novel therapies. Another area of research is wound healing, with a focus on the regulation of keratinocyte proliferation and migration/motility and the development of improved artificial skin. Skin cancer is an area of overlap with NCI, with the NIAMS focus on the response of keratinocytes to UV light and early stages in the development of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Staff Contact:

Carl Baker, M.D., Ph.D.
Program Director
Keratinocyte Biology and Diseases Program
Division of Skin and Rheumatic Diseases
NIAMS, NIH, DHHS
One Democracy Plaza
6701 Democracy Blvd., Ste. 800
Bethesda, MD 20892-4872
bakerc@mail.nih.gov