Inflammatory Skin Diseases

Inflammation is an essential defence mechanism in the body, where our immune systems recognizes and responds to damaged cells, irritants, pathogens etc. Inflammation is also necessary to begin the healing process. However, inflammation can be inappropriate and damage our tissues. Inflammatory skin conditions are consistently one of the most challenging areas in medicine and have enormous patient burden. Common conditions include like, eczema, psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa, alopecia areata etc.). Here in the Charles Institute we focus on cell biologic and molecular biologic events that regulate inflammation in skin and hair follicle, including in disorders like psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa, alopecia areata, and vitiligo etc.).

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis (AD) is a common, chronic inflammatory skin disorder that affects up to 20% of children worldwide. AD patients present with very dry and itchy eczematous skin lesions often found on skin creases. The pathophysiology of AD is believed to be a combined effect of a compromised skin barrier and a T h 2-skewed over-response by the immune system. In addition to these contributing factors, research has shown that the skin microbiome and neuroimmune communication may also participate in the development of this complex disease. Despite being the most common inflammatory skin disease, there remains a need to develop novel therapies that treat not only the symptoms but also the underlying causes of AD. Our research in the Charles Institute focuses on improving current models of AD to facilitate identification and preclinical testing of novel therapeutic targets.

Hidradenitis suppurativa (Tobin/Kirby Lab):

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), also known as acne inversa or Verneuil’s disease, is a long-term painful chronic inflammatory skin disorder. It affects between 1 and 4% of the European population. A recent Irish study indicated a prevalence of 1.4%. HS is associated with substantial impairment of the patient’s quality of life due to pain, scarring, and low self-esteem as well as considerable socioeconomic costs. The exact causes of HS remain poorly understood. Current research suggests that genetic predisposition, modification of the skin microbiome and immune dysregulation are important factors. Therapeutic options are limited and all patients do not respond to them. Thus, it is important to better understand the disease to find new therapeutic targets.

In the Charles Institute, with the collaboration of St. Vincent’s University Hospital, we aim to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms of HS using translational medicine and omics approaches. The ultimate goal is to develop more personalised and effective treatments for patients.

Psoriasis (Tobin/Kirby Lab):

Psoriasis is a common chronic, itchy and sometimes painful skin condition. In psoriasis, the life cycle of skin cells is accelerated leading to a cell build-up which forms scales and red patches. However, the causes of psoriasis are not fully understood. Current research suggest that the immune system and genetics play major roles in its development. Psoriasis is a heterogeneous disease defined by five clinical subtypes. There is no cure for psoriasis and current treatments do not show efficacy for all patients.

In the Charles Institute, we aim to better understand the pathophysiology,
progression and phenotypes of the disease in order to improve or develop new treatments.


Rosacea is a common inflammatory skin condition that affects the face and often the eyes. It shows up as red spots, like pimples, that break out on the cheeks and nose. Both men and women are affected with equal frequency and, unlike teenage acne, it usually starts in middle age. Some men develop enlargement of the nose (called rhinophyma) as a result of this problem. Rosacea is seen most frequently in people with pale sun-sensitive skin and is particularly common in Ireland. While this skin disorder is neither painful nor particularly itchy, it can cause much social distress and embarrassment for the sufferer because it is unsightly and prominent on the facial skin, and also because there has long been a common misbelief that it is caused by excessive alcohol intake.

The cause of rosacea remains unknown but we have shown that the population of a normal facial skin organism, the Demodex mite, is greatly increased in the skin of Irish rosacea sufferers. Our current research focuses on defining exactly how the Demodex mites interact with the human resident skin cells so that appropriate long term measures can be devised to deal effectively with this common facial skin disorder.

Vitiligo(Tobin Lab):

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