Skin functions as a barrier between us and the outside world, with the keratinocytes of the epidermis forming the outermost barrier. This program supports studies on the biology and diseases of the epidermis and skin appendages (hair follicles and sebaceous glands), and includes, but is not limited to, the following areas of skin biology and disease:

  • Development of the epidermis and appendages.
  • Regulation of the proliferation and differentiation of keratinocytes.
  • Role of epigenetics and noncoding RNAs.
  • Formation and function of the epidermal barrier.

Stem cells reside both within the epidermis and the hair follicle and play important roles in epidermal homeostasis, hair follicle cycling, and wound healing. Funded research includes stem cell self-renewal, fate and lineage commitment, and therapeutic applications of skin stem cells.

Many structural proteins such as the keratins, components of cell adhesion and communications complexes (e.g., desmosomes and hemidesmosomes), and components of the cornified envelope (e.g., loricrin and filaggrin) play important roles in maintaining the structural integrity of the epidermis and in barrier formation.


Mutations in regulatory and structural proteins are responsible for a number of genetic skin diseases, including the ectodermal dysplasias, ichthyoses, alopecias, and epidermolysis bullosa. Areas of active funded research for genetic skin diseases include identification of genes and mutations, pathogenesis of the disease, and development of novel therapies. Another area of research is wound healing, with a focus on the regulation of keratinocyte proliferation and migration/motility, and the development of improved artificial skin.


Skin cancer is an area of overlap with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with the NIAMS focus on the response of keratinocytes to UV light and early stages in the development of non-melanoma skin cancer.

For information in the Keratinocyte Biology and Disease Program, contact us at niamskbd@nih.gov

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Ricardo Cibotti, Ph.D.

Acting Program Director
6701 Democracy Boulevard
Building: Democracy I, Room: 888
Bethesda MD 20892-4872

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The Division of Skin and Rheumatic Diseases promotes and supports basic, translational and clinical studies of skin, wound healing, and skin disorders, as well as adult and pediatric rheumatic diseases.

See all Scientific Areas in the Division of Skin and Rheumatic Diseases

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