In addition to specializing in patient care, faculty in the UF Department of Dermatology are actively engaged in on-going research programs. Our research in the treatment of the skin is propelling the department into the forefront of the dermatology research across the nation.
Research efforts at the University of Florida Department of Dermatology include several different areas, they are:
At the University of Florida, we established a unique collaboration between human and veterinary physicians to enhance our understanding on the pathogenesis of Atopic Dermatitis (also known as eczema), with the goal to translate our research findings in new treatment option for our patients (both people and animals).
Atopic dermatitis is characterized by skin barrier disruption, an aberrant adaptive immune response to environmental allergens (or antigen), susceptibility to cutaneous bacterial infections and intractable itch. Atopic dermatitis in dogs has striking similarities with the human counterpart both clinically and immunologically. As atopic dermatitis is a prevalent, chronic disease affecting 10-15% of children and up to 6% of adults in Westernized countries, studies to better understand the pathogenesis and identify new treatments have been in great demand.
Dr. De Benedetto’s research is focused on characterizing the cross talk between epidermal barrier structure and the immune system and their role in atopic dermatitis. The overriding hypothesis of her research is that repairing barrier defects may be effective in preventing and/or treating atopic dermatitis. Dr. Marsella has developed an experimental model of atopic dermatitis in dogs at UF, which has been instrumental in studies on pathogenesis and studies to rapidly screen drugs with potential to be effective treatment options for both dogs and children. This model is unique in the world and represents a major improvement compared to the mouse model since dogs naturally develop atopic dermatitis and are genetically closer to humans than mice are. Dr. Santoro‘s research is mainly focused on the interaction between cutaneous innate immunity and cutaneous microflora. In particular, Dr. Santoro focuses on the role of antimicrobial peptides in the pathogenesis of skin infection in atopic dermatitis. The long-term goal of his research is to identify possible alterations in atopic keratinocytes to predispose to skin infections and atopic dermatitis.
The base of our truly translational research has been formed by clinically relevant questions and its motivated by the determination to take them to the bench and applying information acquired back to the clinics to improve treatments available to our patients (dogs and people).
The newly renovated state-of-art Comparative Dermatology laboratory is housed in the Small Animal Clinical Sciences – UF Veterinary College, in proximity of all UF core research facilities.
Langerhans cell biology
Dr. Mohamadzadeh and his team at the University of Florida in Gainesville are currently focused on two main projects 1) the development of orally administered vaccines against cancer and infectious disease, and 2) the modulation and rebalancing of exaggerated inflammation in various disease processes, including psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colon cancer.
The establishment of a novel orally administered vaccine that does not require injection and is targeted against melanoma or breast cancer requires the activation of professional antigen presenting dendritic cells (i.e., Langerhans cells) to initiate a potent anti-tumor immune response mediated by antigen-specific T cells. Such immunomodulation can be achieved via the genetically engineered probiotic bacterium, Lactobacillus acidophilus, which expresses various targeted regions of the melanoma-associated antigen (i.e., MAG1-3, Melan A) in the gut. Data from our laboratories and others show promising results concerning the feasibility of our novel approach to deliver a vaccine of interest that induces not only mucosal, but also systemic immune responses against cancer and infectious disease.
The link between induced pathogenic inflammation in diseases that include psoriasis and pre-cancerous colonic polyps has been well established, with significant supporting evidence from immunogenetic, pharmacological, and epidemiological studies. Inflammation and its regulation are known to be complex processes in response to changes in the microenvironment; identifying bacterial gene products that enhance protective versus pathogenic inflammation in the gut is critical to rebalance homeostasis in chronic gastrointestinal (GI) immune mediated pathology. To this end, data obtained from our research projects using the genetically modified beneficial bacterium, Lactobacillus acidophilus, clearly demonstrates that controlling induced pathogenic inflammation in the mucosa and in the periphery significantly mitigates the progression of various diseases, including autoimmune diseases, IBD, psoriasis, contact hypersensitivity, and colon cancer.
Ongoing mechanistic studies in our laboratories provide a clearer understanding of the signals delivered by L. acidophilus-surface layer molecules to intestinal cells (i.e., DCs) that might initiate critical immune responses that either enhance or subvert pathogenic inflammation. We believe that targeted preventive and therapeutic strategies will be more effective when cellular interactions are understood in depth and when critical molecules involved in bacterial induced inflammation that may culminate in colonic and cutaneous neoplasia, inflammation, or anti-inflammatory responses are identified.
Skin cancer treatment in recipients of organ transplant
by Dr. Christine Mitchell
by Dr. Vladimir Vincek
Molecular friendly tissue processing
by Dr. Vladimir Vincek