Research in Dermatology

Dermatologists in our Division are active in clinical research in the fields of contact dermatitis, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, psoriasis, medical dermatology would healing, and some clinical drug trials.

In contact dermatitis specifically several residents are presently involved in projects involving contact allergy to topical medicaments, hair dye allergy, topical corticosteroid allergy, reactions to dental materials, a 10 year retrospective review of all epoxy allergic cases at the Ottawa patch-test clinic and finally, cardiac/vascular and joint prosthesis allergy.

Dr. Melanie Pratt, is our Research Director and an internationally recognized authority in contact dermatitis. Dr. Pratt is collaborating with Dr. John  Elliott from the University of Alberta, on a project dealing with the genetics of hair dye allergy.  It is an HLA study.  She is also collaborating with Dr. Peter Hull from the University of Saskatchewan, looking at a possible filaggrin mutation in patients with polysensitization.

Our Dermatology Residents all have research projects and most will present nationally at the Canadian Dermatology Association Meeting, as well as internationally at the American Contact Dermatitis Society Meeting or the American Academy of Dermatology meeting.  Many go on to publish their studies and cases.  Several residents have won awards for their projects and presentations at these meetings over the years.

Dr. Steven Glassman performs clinical research in the fields of Psoriasis, Vitiligo and Photobiology.  He is medical director of the photodermatology units at TOH and Elizabeth Bruyere Health Centre (Bruyere Continuing Care).

Our Mohs surgery unit opened in June 2009 and is run by Dr. Jillian Macdonald.

Dr. Jennifer Beecker is establishing a Pigmented Lesion Clinic, to provide service education and research into the early diagnosis of malignant melanoma.

Dr. Kursad Turksen, Phd, is a basic researcher with a cross-appointment to the Division of Dermatology.  He is actively involved in research involving claudin-6 and keratinization.

Dr. Turksen and his team co-discovered a molecule called claudin-6 that plays a key role in the development and function of skin cells. They found that this molecule resides on the cell surface and acts as a gate-keeper, controlling which molecules are allowed in and out. In order to learn more, they developed a strain of mice that express excess amounts of claudin-6. They found that these mice have highly permeable skin, and they get dehydrated very quickly. Interestingly, very premature babies seem to suffer from a similar condition. It is hoped that further research on these mice may lead to insights into how to keep premature babies healthier. Another interesting application involves drug delivery: future research may reveal a way to temporarily increase the skin’s permeability so that drugs can be delivered by a patch rather than by injection.

Dr. Turksen is also investigating the role of claudin-6 in the differentiation of embryonic stem cells. Depending on various signals, these stem cells can form any tissue in the body. It turns out that claudin-6 may play a key role in directing stem cells to begin differentiating into skin cells. Understanding this pathway could lead to new drugs that would promote the regeneration of skin in wound and burn victims. As the development of skin is closely tied to the development of hair follicles, this research also has implications for developing new treatments for hair loss. Dr. Turksen is an expert in isolating and culturing stem cells, and he recently edited the following books on this topic: Embryonic Stem Cell Protocols I; Embryonic Stem Cell Protocols II; Human Embryonic Stem Cell Protocols. Dr. Turksen is a Senior Scientist in the Hormones, Growth, and Development Program at the OHRI, as well as an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa. His research is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.