Dermatology Research

Translational and Bed-to-Bedside Research in the Department of Dermatology has contributed to discovery of key immune molecules and pathways that are important in the pathogenesis of inflammatory skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), alopecia areata and scarring alopecia (FFA/LPP), and fibrotic diseases such keloids. It also contributed to the therapeutic developments of many novel treatments for inflammatory skin diseases and skin cancers.

Our clinical trial unit has also made significant contributions to the testing and FDA approval of many of the novel and commonly prescribed treatments for dermatologic disorders such as psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis.  The Sinai team has also successfully 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.

Our Areas of Focus

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema): We have established The Center of Excellence in Eczema at The Mount Sinai Hospital directed by Emma Guttman, MD, PhD, perhaps the world’s lead expert in this debilitating disease. This center incorporates the laboratory for inflammatory skin diseases, which has made great 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. Dr. Guttman’s lab has also defined biomarkers of disease in skin biopsies and in blood. Lately she is a pioneer in identifying minimally invasive approaches to sample the skin, to benefit research in adults as well as in children. Her discoveries are leading to a personalized treatment approach for eczema. She also has helped the therapeutic development of new biologic and other systemic therapies for eczema.

Our center, together with our active Clinical Trials Unit, provides clinical trials with systemic and topical treatments for this disease, serving our patients with the best available clinical care and therapeutic options. Patients from around the US, the Americas and the Globe are seen routinely in our center.

Alopecia areata: Alopecia areata involves patchy or complete loss of hair due to “an attack” of the hair follicles by immune cells. This disease affects one to two percent of the American population and has a severe emotional and social effect on patients. We have recently extended our cutting edge laboratory studies in eczema to alopecia areata, in which we are also making important discoveries, leading to new treatments. 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 strength in 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.

Skin of Color Research: We are actively involved in research evaluating unique characteristics of various skin conditions in patients of color, to help develop unique treatments for patients of color. Our department has the first skin of color center in the US, with deep expertise in treatment and research in skin of color. We are actively testing different treatments in patients of color.

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

Keloids: Our department 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.

Vitiligo: 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 insight we gained from our psoriasis, eczema, and alopecia areata research. 

We are also initiating studies on scleroderma, and offer vast dermatological rheumatological expertise from double-boarded dermatologists.

Psoriasis: affects 2-3 percent of the American population. Dr. Lebwohl is one of the leading investigators in psoriasis and helped the development of therapeutic agents for psoriasis. 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 of psoriasis.

Pseudoxanthoma elasticum: Mount Sinai is the only center to receive federal awards to support research in finding a treatment for PXE. We are aiming to develop a possible treatment that may slow or stop the progression of this disease. 

Melanoma and Skin Cancer: In our newly developed 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, treatment and development of new treatments for skin cancers.

Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma (CTCL): We are initiating laboratory research and clinical trials for CTCL.

Over the last 30 years, our Department 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 (PXE), 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 Giselle Singer or the research staff at (212) 241-3288.