Dr. Claire Higgins was appointed as a Lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering in April 2014. She joined Imperial after postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Prof. Angela Christiano, in the Department of Dermatology, at Columbia University in New York. At Columbia she received a Career Development Award from the Dermatology Foundation to research the 'Molecular basis of human hair follicle induction'. Claire obtained a Ph.D. in Skin Developmental Biology from Durham University in 2007, and holds a B.Sc. in Natural Sciences.
The main focus of the research group is to understand mechanisms of tissue development, and regeneration, both in normal conditions, and in response to disease or injury. The hair follicle is used as a model, as it is an accessible and elegant system to study organ regeneration. Research into developmental, and regenerative processes means we can try and recreate them in a lab setting, and exploit the inherent properties of interacting cells to engineer new tissues and structures.
Hair follicles contain specialised cells located in a small mesenchymal compartment at the base of the follicle, termed the dermal papilla. Interaction between the dermal papilla and the bulge (the epithelial stem cell compartment of the follicle), drives the hair follicle cycle. Work in the lab encompasses understanding how these cells acquire their specialised ability to instruct hair growth, in addition to elucidating the role of these cells in response to traumatic injury, and their behaviour during skin repair.
Claire's research publications can be found at the tab above, or on Google Scholar.
et al., 2014, Alopecia areata is driven by cytotoxic T lymphocytes and is reversed by JAK inhibition, Nature Medicine, Vol:20, ISSN:1078-8956, Pages:1043-1049
et al., 2014, FGF5 is a crucial regulator of hair length in humans, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol:111, ISSN:0027-8424, Pages:10648-10653
Higgins CA, 2014, Interrogating the integument: the role of the epidermis in hair induction, Experimental Dermatology, Vol:23, ISSN:0906-6705, Pages:714-715
et al., 2013, Microenvironmental reprogramming by three-dimensional culture enables dermal papilla cells to induce de novo human hair-follicle growth, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol:110, ISSN:0027-8424, Pages:19679-19688