Leung Lab

Research Overview

Our group studies how injured tissues heal, and in some cases, how injured tissues regenerate without a scar. We have innovated new methods for studying wound healing and tissue regeneration in mice and humans. Based on our own findings, we are actively running clinical trials to bring these therapies to the clinic. Our group also studies inflammatory skin diseases. We are actively collecting human patient samples and performing genomics studies to understand the underlying pathophysiology of disease.

Mammalian Tissue Regeneration

One of the great mysteries in biology is how salamanders and worms regenerate lost body parts following trauma. Organisms heal skin wounds using two different processes: scar formation and tissue regeneration. Tissue regeneration results in the return of the original tissue architecture and absence of scars. Scar formation results in fibrous tissue deposition that obliterates the tissue architecture, and generates a thick line of raised red skin. While mammals generally repair injured tissue with scar formation, a few examples of mammalian tissue regeneration exist, including liver and digit tip regeneration. Although less dramatic, these examples suggest that the underlying mechanisms driving tissue regeneration may still be intact in humans. If we can understand how they function, maybe we can use them for regenerative medicine.



We have developed a genetically-defined mouse model of tissue regeneration that includes: hair, skin, cartilage, and blood vessels. Punching small holes in the ear has been a classical method of identifying individual mice, because these holes never close and form scars (similar to a human ear-ring hole). We and others have discovered some strains of mice where the holes close and heal completely with return of original tissue architecture. These genetically defined strains thus offer a unique opportunity to study fundamental questions central to tissue regeneration.  

We use cutting-edge techniques in molecular biology, developmental biology, and imaging to dissect the molecular and cellular mechanisms, including genomic studies (ATAC-Seq, RNA-Seq), lineage tracing, parabiosis, CyTOF, and 2-photon live imaging. Moreover, we developed a human skin organoid system and xenograft model to facilitate translation of these findings.

Inflammatory Skin Diseases

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Molecular Therapeutics

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Thomas Leung Research Group

Department of Dermatology & Institute for Regenerative Medicine

421 Curie Blvd, BRB 1039, Philadelphia PA 19104

Contact: Thomas Leung, MD, PhD