Haiyun Liu

Atopic dermatitis (AD), or eczema, is an inflammatory skin disease that affects 20 percent of children and about 5 percent of adults. Staphylococcus aureus colonization during AD contributes to skin inflammation, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. We demonstrate that S. aureus-driven skin inflammation is mediated by bacterial toxin PMSα and the protein produced in our skin called IL-36. We found that normal mice develop scaly and inflamed skin after S. aureus colonization, but the genetically engineered mice lacking IL-36 activity had almost no skin inflammation. Therefore, IL-36 could be a potential biologic treatment target for AD. This research was done at Dr. Lloyd Miller’s lab in the Department of Dermatology.

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

Johns Hopkins has tremendous resources for research with cutting-edge technology and a wide range of collaborations. It is a great environment for postdoctoral training.

What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received?

It is a great honor to receive the A. McGehee Harvey Award, which recognizes our research accomplishment. This rewarding experience will encourage me to pursue my future career in biomedical science.

What contributed to your project’s success (special skills, interests, opportunities, guidance, etc.)?

The major contributor to the success of this project is my mentor, Dr. Lloyd Miller, who has been extremely supportive every step of the way during the course of this project. Also, it wouldn’t have been possible without the help from my lab members. Their intellectual input and technical support are the driving force for the success of this project.

What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles student and fellows play in research at Johns Hopkins?

Young Investigators’ Day not only encourages scientific communications among young researchers at Johns Hopkins but also recognizes their accomplishments. It is a great way to nurture the future generation of scientists in their path to a successful career.

What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Johns Hopkins?

Working in Lloyd’s lab has been my most memorable experience at Johns Hopkins. The lab culture is very collaborative and fun, which helps the research to be done in an efficient way without too much stress.​

What are your plans over the next year or so? 

My plan is to finish up my current project and look for industry positions.​

Tell us something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences?

My son was born while I was working at Johns Hopkins. He is 5 months old now and starting to develop eczema, with very dry, scaling and itchy skin. Currently, treatments are mainly limited to topical corticosteroids, which only temporarily manage the symptoms. This makes me appreciate the importance of our research: trying to find a more specific target and long-lasting treatment for eczema.