Mount Sinai to expand research training program in skin biology with support from $1.3 million T32 grant

The Kimberly and Eric J. Waldman Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai will expand its research training program in skin biology with support from a five-year, $1.3 million T32 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

The research training program in Systems Skin Biology will take a multidisciplinary approach in teaching scientists to holistically understand human physiology, health, and disease. As a recognized leader in research for skin biology and skin diseases, Mount Sinai will also become an incubator for future biomedical leaders in the field as a result of this program.

Traditional skin biology often focuses on the most obvious cells of the skin, keratinocytes, which form the structure of the epidermis and are essential for skin repair. The Systems Skin Biology program will take an interconnected approach based on the premise that neurons, immune cells, and blood vessels are just as much "skin biology" as traditional skin cells. Mount Sinai researchers have previously discovered new treatments for itch by studying the intersection of nerves and immune cells, and believe future studies through the Systems Skin Biology program will uncover understandings about wound repair, cancer, hair loss, vitiligo, and acne.

Science and medicine are rapidly evolving, and thus, the training itself must adapt. This T32 program is truly unique in that it moves away from focusing on only one discipline, but embraces interdisciplinary training across two traditionally disparate fields-;such as neuroscience and immunology-;by using the skin and associated diseases as a model paradigm."

Brian S. Kim, MD, MTR, FAAD, Co-Principal Investigator, Vice Chair of Research and Director of the Mark Lebwohl Center for Neuroinflammation and Sensation at Icahn Mount Sinai

Dr. Kim, a renowned physician-researcher in chronic itch and inflammatory skin conditions, said the grant (number 1T32AR082315-01) will initially fund two predoctoral fellows or physician-scientists and two postdoctoral fellows or physician-scientists. It will facilitate the training of students toward PhD and/or MD/PhD degrees in intersectional skin biology, as well as training scientists and clinicians with advanced degrees to become independently funded principal investigators. In addition to dermatology, the research training program in Systems Skin Biology will include expertise drawn from across the Health System, including skin biology, immunology, neuroscience, epithelial biology, translational medicine, and stem cell biology.

"This training grant will be particularly helpful for pre- and postdoctoral fellows and dermatology residents interested in bringing a new angle and new approaches to skin research," said co-Principal Investigator Sarah E. Millar, PhD, Director of the Black Family Stem Cell Institute and Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research at Icahn Mount Sinai. "After training in diverse labs across Mount Sinai's campus, they will be able to apply those new skills to uncover novel mechanisms in skin biology and diseases."

"This T32 program is one of many steps toward our Department becoming the epicenter of innovation and a world leader in dermatology, as well as in training the future leaders and key opinion thought leaders in dermatology," said Emma Guttman-Yassky, MD, PhD, Waldman Professor of Dermatology and Immunology at Icahn Mount Sinai and Chair of Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Health System. "In addition to bringing recognition of the breadth of institutional excellence in cutaneous diseases and skin biology at Mount Sinai, this training program will have an indelible impact on the future of dermatology and dermatology research for decades to come."

Mount Sinai continues to be a leader in the field of skin biology throughout New York City and the tri-state region. In 2021, the Health System established a Skin Biology and Diseases Resource-based Center-;then one of only six nationwide supported by a NIAMS grant. The Center uses technical innovations, high-end infrastructure, and computing power available at Mount Sinai to advance and support skin research; it also embeds experts in gene editing, genomics, and bioinformatics within skin research labs to break down interdisciplinary communication barriers.

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