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Research at NCIRE

NCIRE-The Veterans Health Research Institute is the leading private nonprofit institute devoted to Veterans health research in the United States. Our mission is to advance Veterans health through research.

We support the work of some of the nation's foremost physicians and scientists at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the premier biomedical research facility in the VA system. All have faculty appointments at the University of California, San Francisco, which has its own proud traditions of research and patient care. We also partner with the U.S. Department of Defense to support health research on behalf of our men and women in the Armed Forces.

Those who have served in uniform have given their best for their country. In return, we believe that they deserve nothing less than the best health care research we can provide.

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Walter M. Holleran, PharmD

Research Chemist, SFVAHCS
Adjunct Professor, Dermatology and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, UCSF


Improving the Skin Barrier

The protective barrier of human skin is embedded in a lipid matrix consisting of cholesterol, fatty acids, and a unique class of nitrogen-containing lipids called ceramides.  Many skin diseases that affect both veterans and the general population have alterations in the normal pattern of cells and/or lipid layers. Dr. Holleran has defined many of the biochemical processes that allow for normal skin barrier function to develop and persist. His current work, in collaboration with other SFVAMC researchers, explores mechanisms that protect the critical outer skin layers against oxidative stress insults, such as those due to ultraviolet light exposure. After these insults, large quantities of ceramide lipids are produced, which in turn threatens skin cells with premature cell death, called apoptosis. Dr. Holleran's team has defined two enzymatic pathways that protect the outer skin layers from oxidative stress. In addition, Dr. Holleran's recent collaborative efforts have revealed a critical role for a gene family, called the ‘grainyhead-like' Grhl genes, in the formation and healing of the normal protective skin barrier. These mechanisms could be exploited to develop novel therapies for a number of skin disorders, including atopic dermatitis, which affects approximately 10 percent of the veteran population. 

To see Dr. Holleran on Pub Med, click here.