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"Speaking of Vitiligo..."

New NIH Grant Awarded to Create the Vitiligo Center of Research Translation

Monday, September 26, 2022

I am excited to announce that we have received a 5-year P50 grant from the NIH/NIAMS that will establish the Vitiligo Center of Research Translation (VCORT) here at UMass Chan to advance our vitiligo research. The objective of the VCORT is to conduct exceptional translational science that reveals key mechanistic insights in a diverse, informed, and highly collaborative environment. This will have an important impact on patients, physicians, and the research community through progress toward understanding and treating vitiligo, as well as establishing strong collaborations to expand the field of translational research in vitiligo and other human autoimmune diseases.

We spent the last few years generating very detailed data using a cutting-edge research technique called single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq) that revealed hundreds of conversations among cells within vitiligo spots, involving every skin cell type. This indicates that cells and their communications with each other in vitiligo skin are in fact more complex than we previously appreciated. We then realized that we needed an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to assemble this new data into a comprehensive understanding of the disease within vitiligo skin lesions. By leveraging our existing data, a leading multidisciplinary investigative team, and cutting-edge research tools, we will be able to further much of this research through the VCORT.

We want to better understand how autoreactive immune cells navigate the skin, communicate with neighboring cells, engage and destroy melanocytes, and create long-term memory of autoimmunity directly within vitiligo lesions. Our previous work, newly assembled team of researchers, and support from this P50 NIH Award to support the VCORT will allow us to do just that. I’m so excited to announce this news to the community and we can’t wait to start our research and inform the community of our findings!

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