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Klinik für Dermatologie und VenerologieHautklinik


Natural compound research | Dermopharmacy | Photodermatology


Prof. Dr. med. Dipl. Biol. Christoph M. Schempp

Phone: +49 (0)761 270-67010
Fax: +49 (0)761 270-68290
E-Mail: christoph.schempp@uniklinik-freiburg.de


PD Dr. rer. nat. Ute Woelfle, Ph.D. (cellular and molecular biologist, lab leader)

Dr. rer. nat. Fabian Gendrisch,Ph.D. (Immunogist, biologist)




Birgit Haarhaus (B.T.A.)

Beatrix Starke (study nurse, office)

Dr. med Julia Hoffmann, M.D. (clinical investigator)

Marie-Luise Faber (MD student)

Zita Hurth (MD student)

Nina Krieger (MD student)

Natalja Weber  (MD student)


Research activities of skinitial™ are dedicated to the investigation of beneficial effects of plant extracts on the skin. Standardized plant extracts and secondary plant metabolites contain a variety of natural compounds with therapeutic relevance, such as free radical scavenging, antiinflammatory and antimicrobial substances. The dermatologic usability of most of these compounds is only partly explored. The efficacy and skin tolerability of natural compounds in topical preparations depends on the liberation and penetration of the compounds from the vehicle, a scientific field covered by dermopharmacy. Natural compounds used in dermatology should not display toxic, skin sensitizing or phototoxic properties. The compounds are screened in cell culture and enzyme inhibition assays for toxic effects. Subsequently their tolerability and effectivity is assessed in vivo using patch tests or the ultraviolet erythema test (photodermatology). The research unit skinitial™ is integrated into the clinical divisions of the Department of Dermatology. It performs its tasks in cooperation with the other institutions of the Medical Center, University of Freiburg, allowing for close connection to clinical research. The integrative approach of skinitial™ is expressed by interdisciplinary research projects with natural sciences such as allergology, pharmacy and biology, as well as complementary research and therapies.

Scientific projects

Bitter taste receptors and the skin

During the last years it was discovered that bitter taste receptors (T2Rs) are not only present on the tongue and upper gastrointestinal tract but also in the lung. The binding of bitter substances to T2R receptors in the lung induces bronchodilation what may be of therapeutic use in the treatment of asthma bronchiale. The research centre skinitial could show that the skin also posesses bitter taste receptors.

Plant derived bitter agents from gentian (amarogentin) or willow bark (salicin) bind tot he receptors in the skin and induce calcium influx into the keratinocytes, eventually leading to the synthesis of lipids and proteins. Thus the binding of bitter taste receptor ligands to T2Rs stimulates the regeneration of the skin barrier. Moreover, bitter agents display antiallergic effects on immunocompetent cells of the skin.

Interaction of amarogentin with immunocompetent cells of the skin.
Drawing by Ute Wölfle.

Research Grant PsoriTop

Effect of bitter substances on psoriatic keratinocytes

Sponsor: Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) on the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag

The activation of bitter taste receptors (TAS2R) in psoriatic keratinocytes might improve the skin barrier in psoriasis and reduce the formation of proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-17. The research program investigates the effect of bitter substances on psoriatic keratinocytes, the development of topical products with bitter substances for psoriasis, and ist evaluation in a skin model of psoriasis.

Research grant NATVANTAGE

The effect of natural compounds on psoriasis keratinocytes in vcitro and in vivo.

Sponsored by the Wilhelm Doerenkamp-foundation, Chur (Switzerland)

The effect of traditionally used and novel natural compounds on the "Unfolded Protein Response" (UPR) in psoriasis keratinocytes will be investigated. Botanical compounds from Centella asiatica (Madecassoide and Asiaticoside), Mahonia aquifolium (Berberin) and Whrightia tinctoria (Triterpenes und Steroles) are of special interest because they have been used in ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. First, the molecular mechanisms and mode of action of the compounds and plant extracts will be investigated. Subsequently, the substances will be tested in a psoriasis skin equivalent model that will be established especially for this project. Effective substances are expected to reduce keratinocyte proliferation and epidermal thickness, inhibit inflammation and the stress induced response of the endoplasmatic reticulum (UPR).

Klinik für Dermatologie und Venerologie

Hauptstraße 7
79104 Freiburg
Telefon: 0761 270-67010
Telefax: 0761 270-68290
E-Mail: sabine.acker-heinig