Dermatology 2020 Projects

Project Title: The Relationship between the Cutaneous Microbiome and Skin Barrier in Infantile Atopic Dermatitis

Faculty Mentor’s Name: Dr. Jennifer Schoch
Phone: (319) 594-1500

Student Name: Alex Hammond

Research Project Description:

Infantile atopic dermatitis (i.e. eczema) is a common pediatric skin condition leading to significant complications for patients and parents. Sleep disturbances, behavioral issues, and parental exhaustion are just a few of the negative ramifications. Though advances have been made in disease treatment, preventive interventions lag far behind. Infancy is a unique, impressionable period of time during which the physical skin barrier, the cutaneous immune system, and the skin microbiome are developing in parallel. These closely intertwined factors are critical to the development of eczema. The skin barrier becomes “leaky” in kids with eczema, making it dry and prone to infection. The skin’s immune system becomes more reactive, leading to itching and inflammation. The collection of microbes that live in and on the skin (the skin microbiome) also changes in kids with eczema. The timeline of these changes and how they are related, however, is unclear.

In this study, we will begin exploration of the relationship between skin structure, cutaneous immunity, and the cutaneous microbiome. We will examine skin pH and the cutaneous microbiome in infants with newly-onset atopic dermatitis, compared to infants without eczema. Infants age three to nine months with newly-onset atopic dermatitis and without atopic dermatitis will be compared, with the goal of identifying how and when various aspects of skin development go awry. Understanding normal and pathologic skin changes is the first step in developing preventative interventions.

The involved medical student will participate in subject recruitment, study visits, and manuscript preparation, under the guidance of dermatology faculty and a dermatology resident who is leading this project.