The goal of this lab is to understand the way the body’s immune system works within the skin. The skin is not only a passive envelope around the body – it is so much more. It is one of the prime immune organs of the body. It is constantly assaulted by all sorts of foreign materials – bugs, chemicals, micro-organisms – and in order for those external elements in the environment to not enter the skin and cause harm the body needs an intact immune system that extends right out to the surface of the skin. The skin acts as the first sentry.

The Immunodermatology Laboratory is dedicated to understanding in great detail how the immune system in the most exterior part of the body works to protect us on a day to day basis.

The laboratory is specifically involved in:

  • understanding the exact mechanisms for how the skin immune system operates in normal states and in diseased states – Dr. Dutz is studying the possibility of using the body’s immune system and ways of activating T cells – the “foot soldiers” of the immune system – to fight cancerous tumours such as malignant melanoma. He has focused on the skin, as it is rich in the dendritic Langerhans, cells which are necessary for activating the cytotoxic T cells which then work to destroy viruses, bacteria and tumours.
  • vaccine development through the skin using topical patches to develop immunity to bacteria and viruses and tumors – Dr. Jan Dutz has developed a skin-applied, epicutaneous-vaccine technique that offers the promise of needle-free vaccines.
  • understanding how external factors affect the skin immune system, i.e. how light interacts with the skin, affects the immune system, and may induce or alter disease. Methods of using the skin to alter systemic disease are under exploration using autoimmune diabetes as an example.
  • understanding the process by which cytotoxic T cells are first activated against the pancreas in juvenile onset diabetes mellitus, as this is an event that eventually leads ot the onset of the disease.

Dr. Dutz is also investigating the use of adjuvants – chemicals that activate the immune system – applied directly to the skin at the site of a tumor, and whether it is possible to kick-start an immune response to the tumour. It may be possible to turn off specific autoimmune responses for a disease by applying an antigen to the skin without an adjuvant.

Lab Leader

Dr. Jan Dutz

Lab Location

Child and Family Research Institute at BC Children’s Hospital


  • Dr. Mehran Ghoreishi, Research Associate
  • Dr. YiQun Zhang, Research Assistant
  • Dr. Doug Carlow, Research Assistant
  • Sam Chow, Research Assistant


  • Paulina Piesik , MD, (PhD Student)

Major Investigative Technologies Utilized

  • Flow cytometry
  • Animal models
  • Cellular immune assays

Recent Publications

  1. Hu Y, Dutz JP, Maccalman CD, Yong P, Tan R, von Dadelszen P. Decidual NK Cells Alter In Vitro First Trimester Extravillous Cytotrophoblast Migration: A Role for IFN-{gamma}. J Immunol. 2006 Dec 15;177(12):8522-30. PMID: 17142750 [PubMed – in process]
  2. Dutz JP. The skin as a site of initiation of systemic autoimmune disease: new opportunities for treatment. J Invest Dermatol. 2006 Jun;126(6):1209-12. PMID: 16702968 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]