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Dr. H. Keith Johnson

NIH award bolsters skin disease research

BY: WAYNE WOOD

9/10/1999 - VUMC's Skin Diseases Research Core Center recently received a five-year, $2 million grant from the NIH to continue and expand its work, said Dr. George P. Stricklin, professor of Medicine and Dermatology, who directs the center, and who was recently named vice chairman of Dermatology. Vanderbilt is one of six centers in the United States to receive one of these grants.

"These are unique grants," Stricklin said. "They focus on core laboratories and pilot and feasibility projects. The goal is to promote skin-related research."

Toward that end, the center, which was established in 1994 and now has grant support through 2004, has a commitment of space and resources to have 2,600 square feet of space in the A-2300 area of Medical Center North, and the ability to recruit two physician-scientists to Dermatology, Stricklin said.

The center also seeks to make research into skin diseases truly interdisciplinary, he said.

"We have purposely gone outside Dermatology, and even outside the Department of Medicine, to promote skin research."

An example of this reaching out to further research is the three core labs funded by the Skin Disease Center.

A phenotype lab, headed by Dr. Jeffrey M. Davidson, professor of Pathology, "provides expertise in reagents and helps people characterize the cell, tissue, and animal models they're coming up with," Stricklin said.

A morphology lab, directed by Lillian Nanney, Ph.D., professor of Plastic Surgery and Cell Biology, works with tissue analysis and staining.

The third core laboratory is devoted to molecular genetics and is headed by J. Ann Richmond, Ph. D., professor of Cell Biology, and Mari K. Davidson, Ph. D., research assistant professor of Medicine. It provides skin researchers with training and expertise in molecular biology.

Among the other researchers associated with the center are Dr. Thomas O. Daniel, Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Professor of Medicine; Dr. Chin Chiang, assistant professor of Cell Biology; Ming Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences; and Peter J. Dempsey, Ph. D., research assistant professor of Medicine.

An example of the kind of research facilitated by the center is a study into wound healing and skin contraction by Stricklin and Dr. Darrel L. Ellis, associate professor of Medicine. The study was a collaboration with the Free Electron Laser center.

"This has led to promising ways of minimizing collateral damage and understanding how lasers interact with human tissues," Stricklin said.

The other five centers with Skin Disease Research Core Centers funded by the NIH are located at Yale, Emory, Texas Southwestern, Brigham and Women's, and Columbia.

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