Prof Lesley Rhodes BSc, MD, FRCP, FRSB

Professor of Experimental Dermatology

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Research interests

Research elucidating the mediation of acute cutaneous UVR and visible light effects in humans, including mechanisms of the sunburn response, their relationship to longer-term effects, and mechanisms of photosensitivity reactions. Mediation through eicosanoid/cyokine/oxidative species has been defined, including studies funded by the Wellcome Trust and BBSRC. With 5y NIHR programme grant funding, current research  examines the mechanisms underlying inflammatory photodermatoses and their relationship with systemic autoimmune disorders. This links to research examining the prevalence, social impact and psychological co-morbidity of the photodermatoses, and the development of targeted approaches to prevention and treatment. 

Research examining sunlight-induced vitamin D production in humans. With funding including Cancer Research UK, the DoH and EU, we are performing a series of investigative studies defining the sunlight exposure requirements for provision of adequate vitamin D status, in people through the range of skin types/colours/ages and of different ethnicities. Our work has informed recent public health recommendations of PHE, NICE and SACN, and attracted much international interest. Current work (Dunhill Medical Trust, BBSRC) is examining the ability of older people to synthesise vitamin D, with UVR-intervention and development of biochemical assays in skin. We explore the balance of benefit and hazard gained through UVR exposure, particularly vitamin D and epidermal DNA damage outcomes in different populations, and also wider effects of UVR. 

Photoprotective measures against skin cancer and photosensitivity include behavioural approaches, topical (sunscreen) and systemic measures. Innovative research with funding by the EU, Wellcome Trust and BBSRC has defined the skin uptake and  mechanisms underlying the effect of specific anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant dietary agents. Further, our exploration of a novel hormonal agent, an alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone analogue, has demonstrated its ability to substantially melanise the skin without UVR exposure, and shown its significant protection in both immune-mediated (solar urticaria) and biochemical (erythropoietic protoporphyria, EPP) photosensitivity disorders. Research has contributed to European licensing of this first-in-class drug; we continue our research interest in this area.

Methodological knowledge

  • Whole human studies 
  • Cutaneous molecular studies
  • Epidemiological studies 
  • Photobiology, nutritional & photoprotection studies
  • In vivo and in vitro irradiation (UVR & VIS, solar simulated radiation; monochromated light) 
  • Photoprovocation & action spectrum determination in the photodermatoses
  • Cutaneous iontophoresis, microdialysis, fluorescence spectroscopy
  • Ultraviolet dose-response modelling
  • Immunohistochemistry, gene expression profiling, cell culture
  • Applications of mass spectroscopy
  • Applications of sunlight exposure measurement


Research and projects

No current projects are available for public display