Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

The role of lipids in the barrier function of the skin

The outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum (SC), is responsible for the skin barrier function, protecting the body from pathogens, chemicals and other unwanted substances from the external environment. The SC lipid matrix provides the only continuous pathway through the SC and is considered the main element in the barrier function. The major lipid subclasses in the SC are ceramides (CER), cholesterol and free fatty acids (FFA).
Variation in the SC lipid composition has been reported in several inflammatory skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis and plays an important role in the impaired skin barrier function. Studying the effect of changes in the concentration of lipid subclasses on the barrier function is not possible in vivo as lipids cannot be selectively extracted from the SC. Therefore, synthetic lipid model membranes can be used to investigate the relationship between lipid composition, lipid organization and barrier functionality. These in vitro models mimic the lipid composition and organization in the native SC.
The aim of this PhD project is to better understand the role of lipids in the impaired barrier properties in inflammatory skin diseases. Using lipid model systems I will focus on the influence of a variation in concentration of different CER subclasses encountered in the inflammatory skin diseases on the lamellar and lateral organization and molecular arrangement. We are collaborating with a computer modelling group at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, USA) to simulate the data from some of our lipid models studies. This will provide further details on the interactions between the lipids in SC.

Contact
Andreea Nadaban
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