Interview with 2018 HSF Danby Grant Recipient Angel Byrd, MD PhD
October 4, 2022
Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to study HS?
I was raised in Mississippi and attended medical and graduate school at Brown University. I am currently Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Howard University College of Medicine.
I am passionate about translational research in HS. I like taking what is known about the healthy immune system to understand how immune dysfunction causes HS. I am also passionate about inspiring the next generation of physicians and physician scientists who will advance care for patients with HS.
What was the goal of the project you proposed for the Danby grant?
The aim of this grant was to establish a biorepository of HS tissue samples representative of the groups at highest risk for this disease, especially Black/African American women. These samples will help us better understand the pathophysiology of HS, or the “why” behind the disease.
What was learned from this project?
With support from the HS Foundation Danby Grant, we pioneered a novel approach to collect, process, and store hidradenitis suppurativa biospecimens. Biospecimens will help us unravel the roles of specific immune cells, such as neutrophils, which may explain how HS progresses from acute nodules to chronic tunnels and scars.
Our initial tissue analyses suggest that dysfunction of one particular type of immune cell, the neutrophil, may play a key role in HS pathogenesis. As part of the normal host defense against pathogens, neutrophils release a lattice of DNA and microbial enzymes known a Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs). Dysregulation of this process, also known as NETosis, may contribute to HS pathogenesis.
We have also used tissue from this biorepository to develop an HS mouse model. Establishing a mouse model for HS is an important next step for learning more about the mechanisms that cause HS and identifying promising new targets for medications.
What do these findings mean for HS patients?
This biorepository is unique in that it houses HS tissue from majority Black/African American females. These tissues are critical for future studies that will improve our understanding of what causes HS, inform development of effective treatments, and improve quality of life in those suffering with this debilitating disease.
You can read more about Dr. Byrd’s research which was partially supported by this Danby grant, in her publication in Scientific Reports (downloaded for free here) and in Science Translational Medicine DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aav5908