1. Department of Dermatology
doctor doing MRI scan

Dermatology Research

Breakthrough research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has been foundational in advancing the field of dermatology. Translational and bench-to-bedside research in the Department has contributed to the discovery of critical immune molecules and pathways that are important in the pathogenesis of inflammatory skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, alopecia areata, and scarring alopecia, as well as fibrotic diseases such as keloids. Our research has also contributed to the therapeutic developments of many novel treatments for inflammatory skin diseases and skin cancers.

Our clinical trial unit has additionally made significant contributions to the testing and FDA approval of many novel and commonly prescribed treatments for dermatologic disorders such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Our team has also shown the benefit of using some of these already approved treatments to successfully treat other dermatologic diseases, including eczema, alopecia areata, vitiligo, and skin cancers. Finally, Mount Sinai is the only center to receive federal awards to support research in finding a treatment for pseudoxanthoma elasticum. We are currently aiming to develop a possible treatment that may slow or stop the progression of this disease. 

Research Topics

Our research focus areas range from common skin conditions to complex and rare dermatologic diseases.

We have established Center of Excellence in Eczema at The Mount Sinai Hospital directed by Emma Guttman, MD, PhD, one of the world’s leading experts in this debilitating disease.

The Center incorporates the laboratory for inflammatory skin diseases, which has made significant advances in understanding the disease. Our discoveries have outlined the molecular maps of atopic dermatitis, as well as the systemic nature of the disease. It also showed that eczema is a heterogenous disease with differences in immune and barrier profiles among various disease subtypes, based on ethnicity, age, severity, and other factors.

Together with our active Clinical Trials Unit, our Center provides clinical trials with systemic and topical treatments for this disease, serving patients with the best available clinical care and therapeutic options. Patients from around the United States, the Americas, and the globe are seen routinely in the Center.

Alopecia areata involves patchy or complete loss of hair due to “an attack” of the hair follicles by immune cells. Affecting one to two percent of the U.S. population, alopecia areata often has severe emotional and social effects on patients. In response, we extended our cutting-edge laboratory studies in eczema to alopecia areata, in which we are also making important discoveries, leading to new treatments.

Recently we opened the Alopecia Center of Excellence, which is the first center of its kind. This centralized center integrates compassionate patient care, research, and transformative new treatments for alopecia. We have outlined the most comprehensive immune maps of alopecia areata as well as identified some biologic treatments originally developed for eczema that may also be effective in alopecia areata, completely reversing total scalp and body hair loss.

Our Clinical Trials division is now offering patients several clinical trials, many of which are available only at our Center. This demonstrates how our history of laboratory discoveries translates to improved therapeutic testing and patient care, in a bench-to-bedside approach, and may ultimately lead to developments of new treatments for patients with alopecia areata.

We are actively involved in research evaluating unique characteristics of various skin conditions in patients of color to help develop unique treatments for these patients. Our Department has the first Skin of Color Center in the United States, with a high level of expertise in treatment and research in skin of color. We are actively testing different treatments in patients of color.

We have recently identified immune molecules and pathways that are characteristic of frontal fibrosing alopecia and lichen planopillaris, potentially leading to fibrosis in these conditions. We are initiating clinical trials to reverse the inflammation early in these conditions and Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia, attempting to regrow hair and stop the fibrotic process.

Our Department has also made major discoveries on the immune nature of keloids, finding that immune molecules that are involved in eczema and asthma may also be responsible to the abnormal wound healing response in keloids. These discoveries are revolutionizing our understanding of the pathobiology of keloids, leading to clinical trials with immune modulating agents in patients with keloids.

We are beginning clinical trials and laboratory investigations in vitiligo, a prevalent inflammatory disease and a condition with an unmet need for better treatments. At present, phototherapy is the choice of treatment with limited efficacy, creating an urgent need for systemic and topical treatments. We are initiating clinical trials for patients with vitiligo, incorporating the vast insights we gained from our psoriasis, eczema, and alopecia areata research.

Psoriasis affects two to three percent of the U.S. population. Our Department is one of the leading investigators in psoriasis, helping in the development of therapeutic agents, thanks to the research of Mark G. Lebwohl, MD.

A translational revolution in inflammatory skin diseases started with a better understanding of the basic biology of the disease, resulting in treatments that are specific and lack side effects of previous therapies, such as broad immune suppressants. Our Department contributed to this revolution, which we are now extending to other inflammatory skin diseases. Our clinical trials in psoriasis have demonstrated the effectiveness of specific biologic treatments and established the clinical reversibility

In our Waldman Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center, we are using state-of-the-art approaches and non-invasive imaging techniques to visualize skin cancer and promote early detection and treatment, as well as the development of new treatments for skin cancers.

We are also initiating laboratory research and clinical trials for Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma in conjunction with The Tisch Cancer Institute.

Over the last 30 years, the Department of Dermatology has been involved with the testing of almost every new major dermatologic product that has come to market. These studies have allowed us to develop multiple new treatments for specific diseases, such as psoriasis and actinic keratosis, which are not only safer, but more effective.

We have conducted studies for 35 major pharmaceutical companies on a wide variety of topics, including, but not limited to, psoriasis, eczema/atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, alopecia areata, acne, photodamage/wrinkles, herpes, pseudoxanthoma elasticum, onychomycosis, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis. We currently run our clinical trials at our campuses at The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai Morningside.

Patients seeking more information about ongoing clinical trials they may qualify for should contact the research staff at (212) 241-3288.