Basic Science Research

The Department of Dermatology receives the seventh largest amount of funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) of all clinical dermatology departments throughout the country

The Department of Dermatology is conducting research into innovative treatments of melanoma, recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa and diabetic foot ulcers, among other skin disorders.

DNA Sequencing

Brittney DeClerck, MD, and Gene Kim, MD, are actively involved in a collaborative research project with the division of bioinformatics in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences examining the somatic structural variations present in melanoma. The group is using a novel DNA sequencing technique to identify genetic variations and instability in melanoma. The goal of this project is to reliably detect melanoma at its earliest stages.

Gene Therapy

Recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB) is an incurable, inherited mechano-bullous disease of the skin characterized by skin fragility, blister formation and chronic wounds. It is caused by defects in the human gene encoding type VII collagen (C7), the major component of anchoring fibrils (AFs) that anchor together the two main layers of the skin, the epidermis and the dermis. Patients with RDEB die of an aggressive metastatic squamous cell carcinoma in the second or third decade of life. There is no treatment available except for supportive care and wound care. In the last year, the laboratories of Mei Chen, PhD, and David Woodley, MD, made significant strides toward characterizing the structure and function of C7 and developed protein replacement therapies via intradermal injection, intravenous injection or topical application of recombinant C7 (rC7) for RDEB. In all three scenarios, the recombinant collagen 7 localized to the basement membrane, accelerating the wound healing process and decreasing scarring.

Molecular and Cell Biology

Wei Li, PhD, is focused on the identification of new targets for therapeutic treatment of human diabetic foot ulcers (DFU). Our star molecule, secreted Hsp90a, has been patented by USC and licensed out to a biotech company for ongoing drug development.