A UCI interdisciplinary research team associated with the Skin Biology Resource Center has received a three-year, $2 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to generate a comprehensive skin cell atlas that will help explain ancestral differences in skin biology and disease.
The project is part of a worldwide effort to create the Human Cell Atlas, which will map every cell type in the human body and serve as reference data broadly representative of race, ethnicity, ancestry and other determinants of health.
Experts from UCI and the University of Michigan will collaborate to build a network of samples from a variety of ancestries, employing a community engagement approach to include Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and African American populations. “Our network will span three developmentally, anatomically and physiologically distinct body sites that are most prone to various skin diseases: the scalp, which has long hair on it; the forearm, which is exposed to the sun; and lower back skin, which is not sun-exposed,” said Maksim Plikus, UCI professor of developmental & cell biology and project coordinating principal investigator. “Differences in skin pigmentation; epidermal thickness; and hair density, texture and pigmentation are ancestrally linked to disease susceptibility, yet related skin, stem, pigment and immune cell features remain unknown.”
The UCI PIs also include Bogi Andersen, professor of medicine and biological chemistry; Natasha Mesinkovska, associate professor of dermatology; Qing Nie, Chancellor’s Professor of mathematics, developmental & cell biology and biomedical engineering; and Dara Sorkin, professor of medicine.