Research Grants Awarded

Posted: 02/26/2009

The National Rosacea Society (NRS) has awarded funding to four new studies as part of its research grants program to advance scientific knowledge of the potential causes and other key aspects of this chronic and potentially life-disruptive disorder that affects an estimated 14 million Americans.

"We are extremely grateful to the thousands of rosacea patients whose donations are used to support this important program," said Dr. Jonathan Wilkin, chairman of the NRS medical advisory board, which reviews and selects grant applications for funding. "The ongoing study results are making significant inroads toward the better understanding and management of rosacea, as well as its potential prevention or cure."

Dr. Robert W. Walters, assistant professor, Division of Dermatology, and Dr. Robert J. Lefkowitz, professor, Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, were awarded $25,000 to study the role of beta-arrestin in cutaneous flushing. The researchers pointed out that niacin, or vitamin B3, long associated with severe flushing, stimulates receptors on skin cells that react by activating both G and beta-arrestin proteins. However, they noted that a recent study has identified niacin-like drugs that can stimulate only the G protein but do not induce flushing, suggesting that it is the beta-arrestins that may regulate flushing. The results of the new project are intended to lead to better understanding of changes in skin blood flow and possible treatments for this significant symptom of rosacea.

Dr. Curdin Conrad, senior postdoctoral research fellow, Department of Immunology, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Dr. Alexander Navarini, senior postdoctoral research fellow, Department of Dermatology, University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, were awarded $21,450 to study the role of plasmacytoid dendritic cells and interferon alpha in rosacea.

They noted that their work is a logical follow-on to the studies by Dr. Richard Gallo and colleagues, also supported by the NRS, which found that in rosacea, antimicrobial peptides such as cathelicidins are involved. Given that these peptides are part of the innate immune system, their work will examine the next steps in the body's immunological process to see whether type I interferon, glycoproteins that help fight viral infections, and plasmacytoid dendritic cells, which produce interferon, are present in rosacea. They noted that these mechanisms contribute to psoriasis, and a similar finding in rosacea could form a sound basis for newer treatment strategies for rosacea.

Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the division of dermatology at the University of California-San Diego, and Dr. Kenshi Yamasaki of the Veterans Medical Research Foundation were awarded $25,000 to continue their NRS-funded research of how cathelicidins may play a role in the development of subtype 2 (papulopustular) rosacea.

Past support from the NRS has enabled them to show that people with rosacea have too much of a molecule known as cathelicidin, and using mice and artificial cell culture techniques, they showed that this excess leads to rosacea symptoms. They have also shown that the overabundance of cathelicidin is the result of an excess of an enzyme in the facial skin.

In the new study, the researchers will test their hypothesis that the abnormal enzyme is a critical step in the development of rosacea. Too much cathelicidin and too much of this specific class of enzyme may explain its presence, which may in turn suggest a therapy that will inhibit the production or action of these molecules.

Dr. Joseph Rothnagel, associate professor, and Dr. Manuela Trabi, adjunct lecturer, Department of Molecular and Microbial Sciences, The University of Queensland, Australia, were awarded $18,000 for their study, "The role of tissue kallikreins in rosacea." This study will also build from the work of Dr. Gallo and colleagues. They noted that these previous studies reported involvement of the enzyme hK5 and protein CAP18, and hypothesize that at least one other enzyme is also elevated in rosacea. They will study whether proteins known to be crucial for skin integrity are also digested at a higher than normal rate by these enzymes, allowing easier access for pathogens.

Researchers interested in applying for grants may obtain forms and instructions in the research grants section of, or by contacting the National Rosacea Society, 800 South Northwest Highway, Suite 200, Barrington, Illinois 60010, telephone 1-888-662-5874, e-mail The deadline for submitting proposals for research grants in 2009 is October 15.

Members of the NRS medical advisory board include Dr. Jonathan Wilkin, former director of dermatologic and dental drug products for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Mark Dahl, chairman of dermatology at Mayo Clinic-Scottsdale and former American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) president; Dr. Michael Detmar, professor of pharmacogenics, Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland; Dr. Lynn Drake, Harvard Medical School and former AAD president; Dr. Marian Macsai, vice chair of ophthalmology at Northwestern University; Dr. David Norris, chairman of dermatology, University of Colorado and former president of the Society for Investigative Dermatology; Dr. Richard Odom, professor of clinical dermatology, University of California-San Francisco and former president of the AAD; Dr. Frank Powell, consultant dermatologist, Regional Centre of Dermatology, Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Dublin, Ireland; Dr. Bryan Sires, clinical associate professor of ophthalmology, University of Washington; and Dr. Diane Thiboutot, professor of dermatology, Pennsylvania State University.

Social Media Editor: Emma Terhaar

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