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Research news

University appoints its first Professor of Plastic Surgery

Consultant plastic surgeon Ajay L Mahajan has been awarded a chair in Plastic Surgery to acknowledge his many academic and clinical achievements and his close association with the Centre for Skin Sciences. Prof Mahajan took over as Director of the Plastic Surgery and Burns Unit (PSBRU) from Prof David Sharpe in 2013, and the PSBRU continues to flourish with charitable funding from the citizens of Bradford, especially the supporters of Bradford City football club which supports research fellows in a PhD training programme to better understand wound healing and scarring for better patient outcomes.

As featured in a recent article in the T&A  the following explains what this honour means to Prof Mahajan.....

“I am very honoured to be awarded the Chair of Plastic Surgery at the University of Bradford. The University of Bradford has been at the forefront of academic achievements in the recent past and it has been a privilege to be a part of it.

"We have been able to do valuable research at our unit and I am very grateful to the people of Bradford for supporting us.

"I look forward to contributing towards the progress of the profile of the University and improve treatment and quality of life of patients who have been injured or sustained burns"



Professor Ajay Mahajan with Professor David Sharpe at the Pulse Local hero awards

Professor Ajay Mahajan with Professor David Sharpe at the Pulse Local hero awards (from the T&A)

CSS joins Labskin UK in a new KTP project

The Centre for Skin Sciences (CSS) is delighted to announce a partnership with Labskin UK (York) to work on an ambitious 28-month Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project, funded by Innovate UK. CSS, as the knowledge partner, will bring its considerable knowledge, skills and understanding of the interactions between skin cells and melanocytes to help Labskin fulfil its ambition to develop the world’s first commercially available pigmented full thickness, three cell skin equivalent model. This new model will be available at Labskin for companies to use to evaluate products for cosmetic tone matching applications in health and beauty, but also be a pathfinder project to enable future UV protection and drug effect studies.

The team is now looking for an MSc/PhD level research associate to complete the project alongside the Labskin and Bradford University teams. A link to the job can be found here.

Alex Chapman (Head of Operations - Labskin) said, “This is a really exciting project for us and one we have wanted to do for some time. We look forward to working with our colleagues from the University of Bradford and getting this advancement out to the scientific community”.

Dr Jacobo Elies, the University of Bradford project supervisor said “this brings an exciting new relationship with Labskin and opportunity to work in the excellent KTP programme” and Dr Julie Thornton, Director for CSS and principle investigator for the project said “the award of this KTP project is a further example of the success that CSS continues to have in engaging with companies and helping support the development of their commercial opportunities”



Labskin is part of the Integumen PLC group and is in a rapid development phase at its home on the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC) at Sand Hutton just outside York. To stay up to date with recent developments and company news please visit or follow us on @Labskin

This partnership is receiving financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base. This Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK, is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

New skin scientists appointed to work in the Centre for Skin Sciences

The School of Chemistry and Biosciences appoints two lecturers in the Centre for Skin Sciences

Applicants with research interests in all areas of skin biology were sought, including those particularly interested in skin cancer and wound healing. The new recruits will also teach cell and molecular biology in our successful BSc in Biomedical Sciences as well as advanced topics in cell and molecular biology in our MSc programmes. 

We welcome Karthic Swaminathan and David Ansell who will be taking up their posts shortly as Lecturers in Skin Sciences

Nutrafol signs research collaboration agreement with Centre for Skin Sciences at the University of Bradford 

New York, NY (August 23rd, 2019) — Nutraceutical Wellness LLC (Nutrafol) a NY-based nutritional supplement company that aims to help men and women experiencing thinning hair through a multi-targeted approach, reports that a collaboration agreement has been signed with the Centre for Skin Sciences (CSS) at the University of Bradford, UK. 

The intended purpose of this project is to explore the interaction of nutraceutical phyto actives and hormone signaling in a range of relevant cell types.   

"This project presents a very exciting opportunity to collaborate with Nutrafol on such an interesting and important question and we hope that our research will support Nutrafol’s vision to help reduce the impact of hair thinning" commented Dr Julie Thornton, Director of CSS and principal investigator for the project. 

The collaboration between CSS in the Faculty of Life Sciences, and Nutrafol will bring together science and expertise to research human hair biology, hair thinning, and the connection between molecular mechanisms and hormonal signals in many cell types.   

About Nutrafol/Nutraceutical Wellness 

Nutraceutical Wellness, LLC was established with the mission of bringing safe and efficacious natural products to the market that solve hair issues from a fully integrative approach. Nutrafol’s passionate team of doctors, scientists and researchers are steeped in the areas of molecular biology, anti-aging and immunology, to better address and approach the various hormonal, environmental and hereditary causes of compromised hair health. Nutrafol exists solely to optimize hair wellness and create natural, scientifically formulated solutions that are trusted by consumers, beauty experts and healthcare professionals worldwide. 

For more information, visit the brand on FacebookTwitter or Instagram, or at 

New Director of CSS

Dr Julie Thornton was recently appointed as the new Director of the Centre for Skin Sciences (CSS), the first female to lead a research Centre in the Faculty. Julie has exciting plans for the continued development of CSS highlighting the use of skin as an accessible and tractable model for a wide range of studies around tissue regeneration, disease and ageing.

Julie has a BSc (Joint hons) in biochemistry from the University of East Anglia, but her interest in skin biology was sparked by her PhD studies on the role of androgens in human hair growth. While her research interests started in endocrinology, she has continued to widen her interests in this field using human skin as an accessible model. In recent years her research has been heavily focused around wound healing, and she is deeply engaged in further developing the Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit (PSBRU) and is heavily involved in associated fund raising activities. She also has significant experience working with industry, leading several high value collaborations with companies in Europe and the US. Julie has supervised 17 PhD students from a range of backgrounds including both home and international students, in addition to the medics supported by the Burns Unit. The University recently nominated Julie for the Times Higher Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year.


Dr Julie Thornton, Director, Centre for Skin Sciences

Investigative Dermatology comes to Bradford

The University and Centre for Skin Sciences are delighted to welcome 180 delegates from all over the UK and internationally to the annual BSID conference from 1st to 3rd April. The conference is organised by the office of the British Association of Dermatology with a local organising committee of CSS staff. The first morning includes a specialised workshop on Epigenetics of Skin - analysis of high throughput bioinformatics data, led by Dr Krzysztof Poterlowicz and Dr Andrei Mardaryev. Dr Miriam Wittmann hosts a parallel session: Bench to Bedside: Monday Eczema session, encompassing the ALPHA trial. The conference opens at 1pm with the Skin Club whose topic this year is The Hair Follicle: Skin's multifunctional appendage extraordinaire, chaired by Dr Julie Thornton and Prof Des Tobin, with speakers from California, Germany and from Prof Kevin McElwee, based here in Bradford. The full programme can be found here

Amongst many excellent talks highlights will include the Keynote Guest Lecture from Prof Sabine Werner (Zurich) on 'Stromal-epithelial cross talk in inflammatory skin disease and cancer' and the Distinguished Local Lecture given by Prof John Wright 'Born in Bradford- can a research study change a city'. BSID Chair Prof Des Tobin will also award Prof Chris Griffiths (Manchester) the prestigious BSID Medal at the conference Dinner in Victoria Hall, Saltaire.

We are delighted to announce that CSS signed a collaboration agreement with Follicum BV to begin research on novel peptides for therapeutic benefits in hair loss and diabetes. 

Dr Gill Westgate, business manager for CSS, helped the academic team develop the partnership with Follicum during 2018. She said: "This project presents a very exciting opportunity to collaborate with Follicum at such an important point in their evolution."

For more details follow the links below.


Oddfellows Charity continue to support research with a further donation to the Burns Research Unit

The donation marked the final stage of a major three-year funding partnership which began in 2015 and has totalled £88,000. The money has been used to directly support the unit’s delivery of a potentially life-changing project into hard-to-heal wounds and burns.

Titled ‘Exploiting the Hair Follicle as the Preferential Source of Wound Healing Cells in the Human Skin’, the project has seen the research team, grow fibroblast cells found in human hair follicles and through new technologies investigate their importance in the wound healing process, specifically under diabetic conditions where the healing process is compromised.

The plastic surgery and burns research unit was founded following the Bradford City Fire in 1985.

Dr Stephen Sikkink, Experimental Officer of the University of Bradford’s Centre for Skin Sciences (CSS), said: “With diabetes diagnoses rapidly increasing and an ever-ageing population, our continued research into the cellular changes that result in impaired would healing is incredibly important.

“We’d like to thank the Oddfellows for their support in funding our research project.

cheque donation to PSBRU

Odd fellows representetives present the final cheque to The Burns Research Unit staff Dr Julie Thornton (left) and Dr Stephen Sikkink (second left). 

Centre staff launch first book on skin epigenetics

Back in 2012 CSS hosted the first ever symposium on Skin Epigenetics which attracted a stellar international faculty of speakers. The second symposium in 2016 was equally popular and influenced research activities in many labs across the world.

Since then this topic has become a firm favorite in all the major skin conferences, with Centre staff making a significant contribution to the field in publications and conferences, demonstrating just how useful skin tissues are to study epigenetic mechanisms in tissue development and repair.

Topics in the book include:

  • Integration of epigenetic and transcriptional regulation of skin regeneration
  • The role of microRNAs in skin and hair biology
  • Polycomb proteins in skin development and regneration
  • Epigenetic regualaion of wound healing
  • RNA methylation in control of stem cell activity
  • Enhancer promoter interactions
  • DNA methylation as a DNA memory keeper



A new book

Contributing Centre staff - Vladimir Botchkarev, Michael Fessing, Andrei Mardaryev and Natalia Botchkareva 

An explanation for the mysterious distribution of melanin in human skin

Unravelling a mystery was one of the key aims of the work of Dr Nicolas Joli Tonetti, Prof Des Tobin and co–authors studying the fate of melanin in human skin. The latest paper from the Centre for Skin sciences, University of Bradford, in collaboration with Walgreen Boots, provides ‘An explanation for the mysterious distribution of melanin in human skin - a rare example of asymmetric (melanin) organelle distribution during mitosis of basal layer progenitor keratinocytes’.

Published on line on June 29th 2018 in the British Journal of Dermatology, the researchers sought to re-evaluate the long-held dogma that melanin was made in melanocytes, transferred to keratinocytes and then was degraded in the upper layers of the skin. Using several approaches including highly pigmented skin donors with mild and moderate tape strip challenge to induce basal cell mitosis, the teams results suggest that most of the melanin granules are inherited by the non-differentiating skin cells and that this is achieved via ‘asymmetric organelle inheritance’.

Joly-Tonetti N, Wibawa JID, Bell M, Tobin DJ. An explanation for the mysterious distribution of melanin in human skin - a rare example of asymmetric (melanin) organelle distribution during mitosis of basal layer progenitor keratinocytes. Br J Dermatol. 2018 Jun 29. doi: 10.1111/bjd.16926. [Epub ahead of print]

a section through skin showing melanin

Melanin in skin stained using Warthrin Starry method