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Current Research Projects

Current Research Projects

The use of hypericin as a photosensitizer in combating melanoma and non- melanoma skin cancers through photodynamic therapy (PhD) – this project primarily aims to use the photosensitizer, hypericin, to induce cell death in melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers via photodynamic therapy. This involves activating the photosensitizer with a specific light source to generate enough reactive oxygen species to cause cellular oxidative stress and induce cell death. The project started with focusing on melanomas and has subsequently been expanded to include basal and squamous cell non-melanoma cancer cells. In addition, the procurement of a laser has allowed us to focus on very specific wavelength activations. Moreover, we are currently exploring the modes of cell death induced by this treatment at both a gene and protein level.

Identification of melanocytes in vitiligo lesions using immunocytochemical detection techniques – Vitiligo is a pigmentary disorder where the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in the skin are dead/absent. The reasons for this are varied but treatment of responsive patients leads to re-pigmentation from suspected skin stem cell niches. This project, through the use of immunocytochemical visualization, aims to profile the new dividing and proliferating melanocytes in skin samples of vitiligo patients who are responding to therapy. The hypothesis is that this research will establish specific molecular clues being expressed by the responding melanocytes, which will significantly contribute towards better therapeutic approaches to vitiligo and other depigmentary disorders.

Photorejuvenation through the use of low-level light photodynamic therapy – Cosmetic dermatology is a novel and highly commercial research niche (and thus imminently patentable) and this project aims to use laser-produced, low level light therapy (LLLT) to activate skin cells (fibroblasts) to increase collagen – the connective tissue that is drastically reduced in aging skin. The main hypothesis is that if we understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the increase/decrease in collagen production in response to LLLT, various cellular responses can be introduced to up/down-regulate collagen production and we thus have an excellent model to rejuvenate aging skin.