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Chris Sayed, MD, in the UNC Department of Dermatology, Karen Mohlke, PhD, in the UNC Department of Genetics, and Yun Li, PhD, in the UNC Department of Genetics and the UNC Department of Biostatistics at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, were awarded an R21 NIH grant to study the genetics of a chronic, devastating inflammatory skin disease called hidradenitis supperativa.

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic inflammatory follicular disease characterized by recurrent painful abscesses, draining tunnels, and scarring of areas such as the groin and axillae. Despite how common this devastating inflammatory skin disease is in the community, this is the first ever NIH grant awarded to directly fund research for hidradenitis suppurativa.

The planned project will take advantage of a registry of patients with hidradenitis suppurativa recruited within the UNC Department of Dermatology clinics. An accompanying biorepository of DNA will be used to perform a genome-wide association study. More than 50% of subjects in the registry have a family history of disease, and the goal of this study is to identify genetic variants linked to disease development, severity, and heritability. This will be an important step in understanding disease pathogenesis and potentially identify important treatment strategies in the future. The project will lead the way to a better understanding of hidradenitis suppurativa and lay the foundation for future, larger scale translational research projects in the years to come.