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Dermatology Basic Science Research

The basic and translational science research teams at Penn State Dermatology are using cutting-edge technologies to understand both normal skin biology and a number of inflammatory and autoimmune skin diseases. Within the dermatology laboratories, researcheres use a variety of model systems, including human patient samples, to discover the mechanisms underlying disease development and identify novel biological targets for future therapies. Researcheres work closely with clinical colleagues, bioinformaticians and other researchers to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to combatting skin diseases.

Nelson/Thiboutot Lab

  • Amanda M. Nelson, PhD – Assistant Professor of Dermatology, principal investigator
  • Diane M. Thiboutot, MD – Professor of Dermatology, principal investigator, Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Dermatology, Director of Research Education for Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute
  • Stephanie Schell – Postdoctoral scholar
  • Andrea Schneider – MD/PhD student
  • Zachary Nolan – MD/PhD student
  • Mackenzie Sennett – MD/PhD student
  • Zhaoyuan Cong – Technician
  • Kathy Gilliland – Research administrator

Hobbs Lab

  • Ryan Hobbs, PhD – Assistant Professor of Dermatology, prinicpal investigator
  • Ting Gao – Technician
  • Robert Feehan, PhD – Postdoctoral scholar
  • Elizabeth Lesko – PhD student
  • Natella Maglakelidze – MD/PhD student

Current Studies

  • Acne: The full pathogenesis of acne is incomplete. The Nelson/Thiboutot Lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms of a variety of agents, including isotretinoin, on sebocyte biology and sebum production.
  • Skin microbiome: Each individual has a unique skin microbiome. With the NIH Human Microbiome Project, many research studies are focused on identifying and understanding the role of skin microbes and microbe communities in health and disease states. The Nelson/Thiboutot lab is focused on the understanding the skin microbiome in acne and hidradenitis suppurativa as well as how the skin microbiome responds to or is altered during the course of treatment for each disease.
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS): HS is a chronic, painful inflammatory skin disease. The underlying cause of HS is not fully known. The Nelson Lab has numerous projects focused on elucidating the etiology of HS, with the hope of that basic science research on HS pathogenesis will accelerate drug discovery for this devastating, prevalent and difficult-to-treat disease.
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer: Both the Hobbs Lab and the Nelson Lab have a shared interest in non-melanoma skin cancer. Dr. Nelson’s team is focused on understanding the role of the innate immune system in squamous and basal cell carcinoma initiation and progression. Dr. Hobbs’s team studies the cellular mechanisms behind the development and progression of skin cancers.
  • Industry partnerships: The Nelson/Thiboutot lab works in conjunction with our industry partners to perform drug screening on skin cell lines to identify novel mechanism, targets and therapeutics for the treatment of acne. We are also involved in in the design of investigator-initiated trials.

Contact Us

To speak to someone about current studies in the Department of Dermatology, call 717-531-5136 or email Amy Longenecker at