Skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis, are very common and carry an enormous burden on patients, families and the NHS. Nevertheless, the immunological mechanisms underlying the maintenance and function of human skin remain poorly understood. The majority of our existing knowledge of human cutaneous T cell immunology is based on the study of peptide-specific T cell responses. However, we now know that T cells also respond to lipid-based antigens, and these interactions make major contributions to normal physiology and inflammation in the skin.
The international team, which sees Prof Ogg (MRC Human Immunology Unit, Radcliffe Department of Medicine) working with teams in the UK, USA and Australia, will investigate the role of lipids in skin-based immunity, with the hope that this will yield new treatments for skin conditions. Their interdisciplinary approach will encompass lipidomics, chemistry, clinical dermatology, cellular immunology, and structural biology to identify and characterise the key parameters that define the skin’s response to lipids.