Omics technologies, which address comprehensively the entire genome, transcriptome, proteome, microbiome etc., have reached maturity and full acceptance in the research community. Omics are a powerful tool guiding and managing development of biological and medical advances. Currently the most widely used omics method entails DNA microarrays. In microarrays the probes are immobilized on solid supports and the samples, such as bulk RNA, carry the label to be measured. While requiring only minute amounts of input RNA, DNA microarrays probe simultaneously many genes, e.g., the entire human genome, in massively parallel experiments, creating large volume of data. Paradoxically, microarrays allow a very broad, as well a more detailed insight into function, properties and pathologies of biological materials – they enable us to see both the forest and the trees.
Easily accessible, skin was among the first targets analyzed using ‘omics’ and dermatology among the first medical disciplines to embrace it. ‘Skinomics’ is a term applied specifically to bioinformatics studies in dermatology and skin biology. The objectives of skinomics are to increase our understanding of skin biology, improve skin function and to assist in treating dermatologic diseases.
Melanoma has been among the most studied skin disease; markers of melanoma progression and metastatic potential have been defined using DNA microarrays. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas have also been in this way studied. Noninvasive tape stripping can provide adequate material for transcriptional profiling of melanomas and other skin diseases. Sophisticated skinomics studies addressing psoriasis include both a large international effort to identify the psoriasis susceptibility loci, as well as analyses of large cohorts comprising hundreds of samples of psoriatic lesional and nonlesional skin. DNA microarrays can be used to predict genetic susceptibility to psoriasis, to follow its course of treatment and to predict responses or resistance to different treatment modalities. Molecular changes in uninvolved skin and in healed lesions of psoriatics have also been defined. The specific changes in the microbiome of psoriatics and of atopic dermatitis patients have been correlated with each disease. As dermatology advances toward personalized medicine, we can anticipate that DNA microarrays and related ‘omics’ techniques will be directly applied to the personalized dermatology practice of the near future.
Using DNA microarrays, genes specific for epidermal stem cells have been identified. The transcriptional changes occurring during epidermal differentiation, keratinization and barrier disruption have been pinpointed and characterized. Importantly, in vitro cultures of epidermal keratinocytes have been used in many studies because keratinocytes respond to UV light, hormones, vitamins, inflammatory and immunomodulating cytokines, toxins , physical injury etc.
The great advances in the omics approaches and in the use of DNA microarrays in skin biology and dermatology have reached a critical point; now is a very good time to comprehensively assess this rich and varied field. In this meeting we shall attempt to bring together the leaders, experts and practitioners of the use of DNA microarrays in skin biology, to review our progress, chart future directions and, most importantly, to introduce ourselves to one another, enabling exchange of ideas, fostering potential collaborations.