This research portfolio consists of basic, translational and clinical studies of skin biology and diseases. The topic areas include the two major skin tissue types, epidermis and dermis, as well as the skin sensory apparatus and their innervations. All research is aimed at understanding normal and diseased states and developing measures to prevent, control, reduce suffering from and eventually cure diseases. 

Basic Research Encompasses:

  • Investigating cellular structure, function and regulation of keratinocytes, fibroblasts, sensory cells and neurons in mature and developing skin.
  • Studying the basic structure and function of basement membrane and extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins (collagens, fibrillins, elastins, etc.) of the skin, their structure, function, assembly and synthesis. 
  • Elucidating the inter/intracellular signaling networks, transcription regulatory pathways, chromatin structure and epigenetic mechanisms, cellular metabolism, proliferation and differentiation, non-coding RND regulatory networks, cell mobility, sensory, transportation and secretion functions.
  • Studying skin innervations, defining sensory functions of resident skin cells (e.g., keratinocytes, Merkel cells, sensory apparatus, etc.).
  • Technology and methodology development, computation and quantitative analysis of large datasets and mathematical modeling. 

Translational and Clinical Research Includes:

  • Developing animal models of disease.
  • Investigating differentiation pathways of keratinocytes, fibroblasts and sensory cells to improve understanding of skin diseases, to identify potential therapeutic targets and to guide normal patients' iPS cells into differentiated cells.
  • Investigating structure and function of skin protein complexes, such as desmosomes, demi-desmosomes, tight-junctions, cytoskeleton etc., which maintain structural integrity of epidermis -- and whose defects underlie the pathogenesis of pemphigus, pachyonychia congenita, forms of epidermolysis bullosa, and other diseases. 
  • Exploring structure and function of the skin permeability barrier (the stratum corneum), and how it changes with skin aging and diseases; identifying targets for therapies to restore normal barrier function in disease conditions. 
  • Investigating how fibrosis develops and the pathology of inherited defects in extracellular matrix proteins, i.e., heritable connective tissue disorders.
  • Investigating the biology of adipocytes, including their functions in skin and systemic homeostasis (metabolic, thermo-regulation) and diseases.
  • Studying mechanisms of touch and temperature sensation; investigating interactions among skin sensations, i.e., itch, pain, touch and temperature; developing therapeutic methods to control itch and pain in disease conditions. 
  • Studying skin as a hormonal producer, regulator and responder; skin's circadian rhythm; and the mutual influence of psychology and skin physiology under normal and pathological conditions. 

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Peter Koch, Ph.D.

Program Director
6701 Democracy Blvd
Building: Democracy I, Suite 800
Bethesda MD 20892