Extracellular Matrix (ECM) Biology and Diseases Program

Reviewed July 12, 2013

Research Areas

This research portfolio consists of basic, translational and clinical studies of extracellular matrix (ECM) biology and diseases.  Studies of dermal wound healing, normal and impaired, as well as studies of diseases related to cutaneous vasculature and neuroendocrine/sensory functions are also parts of this portfolio. 

Basic studies encompass investigations of cellular function and regulation in the dermis under normal and disease conditions.  Molecular studies include investigations of ECM protein components (collagens, fibrillins, elastins, fibulins, matrix metalloproteinases, etc.) of dermis, their structure, assembly and synthesis.  A key area of the basic research is elucidating the networks of regulatory pathways that control ECM function and repair, as well as their roles in epithelial and mesenchymal (epidermal and dermal) interaction.  A substantial portion of the portfolio is devoted to translational and clinical studies.   These studies include unveiling mechanisms underlying ECM diseases (e.g., fibrosis, scleroderma, etc.), discovering and analyzing mutations in ECM components and constructing animal models of human ECM diseases (e.g., Marfan syndrome, pseudoxanthoma elasticum).  Many ECM diseases are inheritable (e.g., Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, venous malformation, etc.); hence, the heritable pattern and the effect of genetic background on the severity of these diseases are also subjects of studies in this portfolio.

Wound healing research is another major component of this portfolio.  The goal of supporting wound healing research is to meet the increasing burden of human skin wounds on public health and the economy.  Studies in this portfolio cover, on one hand, investigations aimed at understanding normal and impaired skin wound healing ( the latter includes both delayed healing, e.g., chronic wounds, as well as over-exuberant healing, e.g., keloids), and, on the other hand, efforts in interventions to accelerate healing and to reduce scarring through biological (e.g., stem cells) and engineering (e.g., bioactive materials) approaches. 

Research on cutaneous vascular anomalies includes projects aiming at understanding the genetics and biochemical mechanisms of venous malformation, improving treatment of diseases such as hemangioma, port-wine stain birthmarks, etc., and developing new therapeutic modalities (e.g., endothelial stem cells, etc.).  An emerging area in the portfolio is research in the neuroendocrine/sensory aspect of skin (e.g., itch).

Because of their prominent roles in ECM function and regulation, fibroblasts and the TGF-beta family of cytokines are subjects of emphasis in this portfolio.

Staff Contact:

Hung Tseng, Ph.D.
Program Director
Extracellular Matrix (ECM) 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
tsengh@mail.nih.gov