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4th Annual Colorado Skin Research Retreat

The 4th Annual Retreat of the Colorado Skin Research Program took place on September 19, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. 60 participants from UC Denver, Colorado State University (CSU), Northwestern University (Chicago, IL) and Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY) representing basic science, translational science, clinical research and clinical practice discussed advances in the areas of skin biology and dermatology. Main topics included the use of stem cell technology to investigate disease mechanisms and the development of stem cell-based therapies. Further, skin cancer, pigmentation disorders and basic epithelial biology were discussed. Lastly, current and new Core service initiatives aimed at enhancing the research environment for Colorado skin researchers and dermatologists were discussed. Please click here for the 2015 scientific meeting program.
SDRC Retreat Speakers
Speaker Research Interests
Dennis Roop, PhD
Professor of Dermatology and Director of the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Developing novel therapeutic strategies for inherited and acquired skin diseases
My laboratory has a long standing interest in identifying genes required for normal skin development. We have discovered that defects in some of these genes cause inherited skin diseases characterized by a very fragile skin, which blisters easily and may result in neonatal death. Defects in other genes required for normal skin development predispose individuals to develop skin cancer. We are currently generating induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) from patients with inherited skin fragility syndromes using methods which do not require viral vectors, and determining whether genome editing techniques can be used to correct the genetic defect in these patient-specific iPSCs. Our ultimate goal is return keratinocytes derived from genetically corrected iPSCs to the same patient as an autograft. My laboratory is also isolating and characterizing skin cancer stem cells. An improved understanding of cancer stem cells could result in the development of novel therapeutic strategies that specifically target cancer stem cells for destruction and prevent tumor recurrence.
David Norris, MD
Professor and Chairman of the Department of Dermatology
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Dr. Norris’ research is focused on the network of anti-apoptotic defenses in the skin, how these defenses can be maintained in inflammatory and immunologic disease, and how they can be overcome in cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. He is also involved in translational research projects in immunologic diseases: alopecia areata, vitiligo, psoriasis and atopic eczema.
Peter Koch, PhD
Professor of Dermatology and Cell and Developmental Biology
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Dr. Koch has a long standing interest in the role of cell adhesion proteins in skin and skin appendage development. Further, his team investigates the role of these proteins in inherited and acquired skin diseases, including blistering skin diseases and skin cancer. In collaboration with the Koster laboratory, his group utilizes induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to develop human cell-based disease models to investigate the molecular and cellular defects that lead to skin lesions in ectodermal dysplasia (ED) patients. Dr. Koch is also the Director of the Gates Bioengineering Core, which designs and generates genetically engineered mouse lines as well as iPS cell lines for the research community (
Ganna Bilousova, PhD
Assistant Professor of Dermatology
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Dr. Bilousova’s lab is interested in employing induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) technology for the development of experimental gene-correction strategies for inherited skin blistering diseases. In addition to gene correction studies, her team investigates the applicability of iPSCs in in vivo modeling of inherited skin diseases, tissue rejuvenation and wound healing using mouse xenograft models. For more information, please see:
Lianghua Bin, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology
National Jewish Health
Viral Responses in Human Keratinocytes and Mechanism Understanding Eczema Herpeticum
A subset of atopic dermatitis (AD) patients have increased propensity to disseminated skin herpes simplex virus infection, a condition termed as "eczema herpeticum" (EH). Mechanisms leading to EH remain elusive. Using a RNA-sequencing approach, we investigated the transcriptomic changes of PBMCs in response to HSV-1 exposure between AD patients with a history of EH (ADEH+) and AD patients without a history of EH (ADEH-). We found that the innate immune responses against HSV-1 have significantly impaired in ADEH+ subjects as compared to ADEH- subjects. ANKRD1 and KCNE1L are identified as novel gene signatures in ADEH+ that may involve in host anti-viral innate immune signaling pathways.
Stanca Birlea MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Dermatology
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Dr. Birlea’s research is aimed at investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of melanocyte repopulation in vitiligo. The goal of this work is to identify, using whole transcriptome RNA sequencing and gene expression analysis, the main signaling pathways and molecular networks modulated by the NBUVB treatment in the hair follicle bulge and epidermis of vitiligo patients. For more information please see:
David Castillo
Graduate Student, Graduate Program in Cell Biology, Stem Cells and Development
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
In Linda Barlow’s lab we study the development and maintenance of the taste system. I am interested in signaling pathways that regulate the stem cell pool(s) responsible for renewal and maintenance of the taste system in mammals. My research project focuses on the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway. I use mouse transgenic lines as well as pharmacological approaches to investigate the phenotypic effects of Hh loss of function
in tongue epithelium and demonstrate its potential to regulate differentiation of the entire taste bud cell complement. For more information please see:
Jiang Chen, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pathology and Dermatology
Stony Brook University
Dr. Chen’s research is focused on the biological functions of primary cilia and cilia-related genes in skin development, homeostasis (e.g. aging and hair loss), and cancers (e.g. basal cell carcinoma and melanoma). Specific research topics include polarity, intracellular trafficking, adhesion, and molecular signaling. Dr. Chen’s laboratory is also involved in the development of keratinocyte stem cells-based therapeutic strategies for genetic skin disorders caused by keratin mutations, such as epidermolytic hyperkeratosis (EHK) and pachyonychia congenita (PC).
Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Associate Professor of Dermatology and Public Health (Epidemiology)
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
With more than 180 PubMed cited publications garnering more than 14,000 total citations, Dr. Robert Dellavalle’s interdisciplinary research focuses on dermato-epidemiology and skin cancer prevention with an emphasis on teaching medical students and residents how to perform publishable research.
Mayumi Fujita, MD, PhD
Professor of Dermatology
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Dr. Fujita's lab has investigated 1) biology of cancer stem cells in tumorigenesis, progression and therapeutic resistance of melanoma, 2) biological roles of inflammasome and auto-inflammation in the tumor microenvironment, 3) melanoma biomarkers for the diagnosis, prediction of disease activity and treatment response, 4) identification of metastasis-related genetic/genomic changes in human melanoma and 5) roles of IL-37, a novel inhibitor of innate immunity, in adaptive immune responses.
Spiro Getsios, PhD
Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Cell and Molecular Biology
Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine
Director of the Skin Tissue Engineering Core
Northwestern University, Skin Disease Research Center
Dr. Getsios’ research is focused on cell-cell adhesion and signaling pathways that impact epithelial cell differentiation in normal and pathological states. His laboratory utilizes 3-D human tissue engineering approaches to interrogate factors governing epithelial tissue morphogenesis, integrity, and homeostasis. These human cell based platforms are being combined with genomic and proteomic approaches to discover new pathways that can be harnessed to normalize epithelial tissue differentiation in diseases such as cancer and chronic inflammation.
Karen Helm
Manager, Flow Cytometry Shared Resource, University of Colorado Cancer Center
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
The Flow Cytometry Core is equipped to perform the majority of standard and advanced flow cytometry applications. A CyTOF2 mass cytometer and a Yeti high-end analyzer are exciting new additions to our equipment. The CyTO2 is a combination of flow cytometry and time-of-flight mass spectrometry, allowing in-depth profiling of cells using 30-40 markers simultaneously with no spectral compensation needed. The Yeti will provide multiple new additions to our application repertoire including side population analysis with a true UV laser, direct absolute cell counts, and direct sampling from 96-well plates
Maranke Koster, PhD
Associate Professor of Dermatology
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Research in the Koster laboratory is aimed at investigating the role of the transcription factor p63 in the different stem cell populations that reside in the skin, including epidermal and hair follicle stem cells. The ultimate goal of these studies is to define the role of p63 in the skin under homeostatic conditions as well as under pathological conditions, including inherited skin diseases and skin cancer (
Brad Kubick
Graduate Student, Graduate Program in Cell Biology, Stem Cells and Development
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
My research focuses on the activity of anti-tumor immune cells that target early neoplasms and the mechanisms by which transformed cells evolve to evade that immune response. This process is referred to as immuno-editing. I use transplantation of genetically-engineered skin and intravital confocal microscopy to model somatic carcinogenesis. These methods recapitulate the process of clonal evolution which drives human cancer. Currently, I am focused on the role that the normal stem cell niche plays in protecting cells before they develop immune-evasive traits. I am also interested in the overlap between tumorigenicity and immunogenicity during the immune evolution of pre-malignant cells.
Nitya Maddodi, PhD
Scientist, Department of Dermatology
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
I am currently interested in understanding the molecular mechanism of ectodermal dysplasia and melanoma skin cancer. My research is focused on studying epidermal keratinocytes and melanocytes in skin diseases. Oncogenic mutation in NRAS and BRAF are frequently found in cutaneous melanoma and activation of oncogenic BRAF is involved in tumorigenesis. We are investigating the mechanisms of autophagy induction
for melanoma tumor inhibition. I am also interested in understanding the role of microRNAs in skin diseases. Recently, we have identified microRNAs as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for melanoma. Currently, we are investigating the role of microRNAs in ectodermal dysplasia.
Thomas Payne, PhD
Director of Cell Therapies
Gates Biomanufacturing Facility (GBF) University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Tom came to the Gates Center in 2012 to establish and direct a cGMP facility capable of manufacturing therapeutic cells and proteins. Tom has 15 years of experience in cell therapy research and manufacturing. His research experience includes investigating adult stem cells for tissue repair at the University of Pittsburgh. Tom then translated this research into human clinic trials at Cook Myosite, a start-up in Pittsburgh. At GBF, Tom oversaw the design and construction of the new 14,000 SF facility, which reached substantial completion in April 2015, and now oversees the startup of the facility’s general and cell therapy operations.
William Robinson, MD, PhD
Rifkin Endowed Chair for Cancer Research
Professor of Medicine Medical Oncology
University of Colorado Denver
Discovery of New Molecular Signals and Targets in Melanoma by Whole Exome Sequencing
We have completed whole exome sequencing in more than 400 human melanoma samples, most with paired normal DNA, seeking new molecular targets and profiles for treatment and outcome prediction. Large numbers of somatic variations have been found in metastatic samples including SNVs, indels and kinase fusions. We have concentrated on molecular changes that occur in brain metastases and mucosal melanomas both of which remain extremely difficult to treat. Correlations are also being made between response to immunotherapies (anti CTLA-4 and PD-1) in all types of melanoma and molecular profiles to predict response
Sangeeta Shrotriya, PhD
Scientist, Department of Dermatology
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
My research is focused on investigating the role of the transcription factor p63 in regulating the hair follicle bulge stem cell population. Recently, we have identified around seventy genes that are differentially expressed in p63-ablated hair follicle bulge stem cells. Several of these genes are involved in the Wnt signaling pathway, a pathway that is well-known for its role in bulge stem cell activation. Follow-up mechanistic studies further implicated p63 as an important regulator of Wnt signaling in bulge stem cells. We are currently investigating additional p63 target genes that are involved hair follicle stem cell activation.
Richard Spritz, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Human Medical Genetics and Genomics Progran
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
My laboratory has a longstanding interest in the molecular basis and pathophysiology of human genetic skin disorders, particularly diseases of pigmentation, including various forms of albinism, Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome, Chediak-Higashi syndrome, piebaldism, and others. Our current major focus is the genetic basis of autoimmune vitiligo, a complex trait for which by genome-wide linkage and genome-wide association studies we have identified over 50 contributory genes. These genes form a functional network that links the immune system to the melanocyte, and which suggests novel approaches to treatment. We are currently identifying the corresponding causal genetic variants, carrying out functional analyses of the roles of these variants in disease pathogenesis, and developing approaches to gene-based risk prediction and precision medicine for vitiligo.