The goal of my laboratory is to better understand what causes vitiligo in order to develop new treatments. The way we think about vitiligo, there are 3 major components of the disease:
First, melanocytes have abnormally high levels of cellular stress, which can be caused by inherited factors, genetic factors, or both.
Second, stressed melanocytes produce signals that activate innate immune cells to initiate inflammation that leads to autoimmunity.
Third, innate immune signals recruit adaptive immune cells (primarily CD8+ T Cells) into the skin, which then find melanocytes and kill them, resulting in white spots, or depigmentation.
In the lab, we focus on all three aspects of vitiligo using a number of model systems as well as tissues from vitiligo patients themselves. We have developed a mouse model of vitiligo, we grow primary human melanocytes in the lab, and we isolate vitiligo patient skin and blood for our studies. In addition, we have developed collaborations with other clinicians and scientists to ensure that our studies progress quickly and efficiently.