Tongyu Cao Wikramanayake Lab : Research


The epidermis and its appendages including the hair follicles and sebaceous glands provide an excellent model system to study epithelial differentiation, stem cell lineage specification and maintenance, and tissue repair and regeneration. We use genetically modified mouse models to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying these processes, and the pathobiology of skin disorders. In addition, we use mouse and rat models to explore novel approaches for the prevention and treatment of various types of alopecia.

We routinely use mouse genetics, human and mouse cell and tissue culture, histology, and various biochemical and cell biological techniques in our studies.

Epidermal and Appendage Differentiation

We carry out functional analysis in natural mutant mouse strains and genetically modified (transgenic and knockout) mice to understand the mechanisms regulating epidermal and appendage differentiation. One of our current projects focuses on the role of Mpzl3 in epidermal and hair follicle/sebaceous gland function by analyzing the severe skin abnormalities in mice with Mpzl3 mutation or deletion.

Alopecia and Treatment

Through close collaborations with Dr. Joaquin J. Jimenez’s laboratory, we carry out preclinical studies to test novel therapies for alopecia areata (AA) and chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA). AA is a common, non-scarring hair loss disorder with an incidence of 0.1~0.2% in the general population. It is a T cell-mediated inflammatory disorder specific for the hair follicles. CIA affects approximately 65% of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Whereas AA and CIA have very different etiologies, both have significant negative psychological repercussions for patients.

A heat treatment scheme allows us to induce early onset of AA in a large number of genetically predisposed C3H/H3J mice. Using these mice, we have shown that quercetin, a natural bioflavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties, was effective in preventing the onset of AA as well as promoting hair regrowth. We have also shown that low-level laser treatment, which has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration to treat androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss), was effective in promoting hair regrowth in our mouse and rat models of AA and CIA. Our results warrant further clinical studies to determine the efficacy of these non-invasive, user-friendly approaches in the prevention and treatment of AA and CIA.