Allison Billi, MD, PhD, is the latest Michigan Medicine faculty member to be appointed a Taubman Emerging Scholar.
Dr. Billi is an assistant professor of dermatology and scientist studying autoimmune disorders.
Her team aims to understand why women are so much more likely to develop autoimmune disease than men, and they are looking into skin as a cause. They have discovered a pro-inflammatory factor called VGLL3 that is naturally more plentiful in the skin of women.
By modeling this state in mice, Dr. Billi’s research has shown that having too much of just this single factor in the skin is enough to cause the autoimmune disease lupus. These mice develop not only lupus-like skin rashes, she said, but internal disease manifestations as well, including autoantibodies that can direct the immune system to attack the body.
“So, we now know that skin inflammation can cause internal autoimmune disease, but we still need to figure out how it’s happening – and how we can stop it,” Dr. Billi said. “Funding through the Taubman Emerging Scholars program will give us the flexibility to attack this question from multiple approaches.”
The Taubman Emerging Scholar program was established in 2011 to give mid-career financial support and mentorship to Michigan Medicine faculty members.