Molecular body map of human skin: the key for understanding human skin diseases

Grantee: Maria Kasper, Principal Investigator, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Amount: DKK 3,949,807 

Skin is the largest human organ and contains an intricate variety of cell types that assure tissue architecture and proper skin function, such as thermoregulation and hair growth.

An imbalance of cell types and/or molecular signalling often results in disease. Across the body, skin composition differs in thickness, hair growth, sebaceous and sweat gland density, microbiota exposure and disease susceptibility.

However, a molecular understanding of how cell types and genetic programs vary with skin regions, and molecular alterations in disease, is currently lacking.

Previously, my lab pioneered the use of single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) in mouse skin by generating a comprehensive molecular and spatial atlas of epithelial and mesenchymal cells during hair growth and rest (Joost et al. 2016; Joost et al. 2019). Building upon our expertise, we will molecularly dissect human skin, initially through a body map that spans various body sites of healthy donors, to identify cell types and sub types in human skin and also to investigate important cell type differences and alterations compared to mouse skin. Subsequently, the body map will be the foundation for molecular analyses of skin diseases, including immune-triggered psoriasis.

A carefully constructed and annotated human skin atlas, with spatial and molecular precision, would have enormous value for the scientific community and propel our molecular understanding of skin in health and disease.