The Dermatology Foundation, which funds innovative research in skin biology with the potential to lead to new treatments and cures, has awarded Benjamin Nanes a Physician Scientist Career Development Award. Dr. Nanes is a practicing dermatologist and joined the Danuser laboratory in 2019 to conduct research into the mechanics behind skin remodeling during wound repair or in diseases.
Our skin’s outermost layer, called the epidermis, is made up of cells called keratinocytes. The strength of our skin barrier can be largely attributed to the keratin intermediate filaments within keratinocytes. Dr. Nanes is investigating how these filaments tune cellular mechanical properties to influence skin architecture during remodeling of the epidermis. Keratin filaments allow keratinocytes in the epidermis to resist mechanical stress, thus maintaining the stability of the skin barrier. However, in situations such as wound healing, epidermal stability must be balanced with plasticity to allow remodeling to occur. How keratin filaments balance the competing needs for tissue stability and plasticity remains poorly understood.
By combining live-cell imaging, computer vision, and organoid culture approaches, Dr. Nanes is unraveling the functions of keratin filaments at the subcellular scale. Through his research, Dr. Nanes hopes to better understand the mechanisms balancing epidermal stability and plasticity. These insights could reveal targets for designing novel treatment approaches for diseases where epidermal remodeling is disordered, such as non-healing wounds, eczema, and many different ichthyoses.