I am associate professor in experimental dermatology (since 2011). My group is located at the Center for Molecular Medicine, Solna.
Our research is focused on skin non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), in particular we investigate their involvement in the malignant transformation of skin cells as well as in the modulation of the innate immune response in the skin.
1. Investigation of the role of non-coding RNAs in skin cancer
Non-melanoma skin cancers, basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are the most common cancers in human. Until recently, very little was known about the expression and function of ncRNAs in human skin and its diseases. Non-melanoma skin cancers are primarily a consequence of cumulate sun exposure, which results in genetic and epigenetic changes leading to acquiring a cancer-phenotype. Although the genetic alterations contributing to non-melanoma skin cancers have been extensively characterized, the factors responsible for mediating their effects on cellular transformation, reprogramming of the tumor microenvironment is less known. Recently, ncRNAs, such as microRNAs (miRNAs) and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), have emerged as novel regulators of genetic programs in higher eukaryotes. My team has identified several non-coding RNAs that are expressed in the skin, however, their contribution to skin carcinogenesis remains poorly understood.
Our aims are to (1) identify non-coding RNAs, microRNAs and long non-coding RNAs, that are involved in skin cancer (2) to identify the biochemical regulatory networks leading to their altered expression (3) to decipher their roles in the neoplastic transformation of skin epithelial cells (4) identify their roles in the regulation of gene networks. We study the molecular function and the pathways regulating their expression using cell culture assays and investigate their function in skin cancer and inflammation using animal disease models such as genetically modified animals, cancer growth and metastasis assays. Our long-term goal is to translate our findings into the clinical practice and modulate miRNA expression in the skin via synthetic miRNAs or miRNA inhibitors in order to treat skin cancer.
2. Investigation of the role of non-coding RNAs in the innate immunity in the skin
Another line of research in the lab is the investigation of the role non-coding RNAs in the innate immune response of skin cells. Healthy skin is colonized by bacteria, which are essential for the maintenance of heathy tissue homeostasis. My earlier research demonstrated that skin cells are able to recognize danger signals and upon activation keratinocytes they organize an immune response via the secretion of inflammatory mediators and chemokines. Although the trancriptomic changes assacoited with the innate immune response of skin cells has been chaeracteries, little has been known whenther and how these molecular alterations are regualted by ncRNAs. Our aim is to explore the role of non-coding RNAs in the regulation of the innate immune response of keratinocytes.