Ralf researches into the biology and pathology of the hair follicle as a microcosmic miniorgan in which many of the fundamental problems of biology can be studied exemplarily. Currently, he is most intrigued by the astounding neuroendocrine properties of the human hair follicle, their impact on mitochondrial function and hair follicle immune status, and the use of adult hair follicle stem cells for regenerative medicine purposes.
Ralf's particular interest is in:
- better defining and in manipulating various neuroendocrine pathways established in the human hair follicle (HPA and HPT axis equivalent systems) and in elucidating novel functions of this neuroendocrine activity, such as neuroendocrine controls of mitochondrial activity and biogenesis in human skin, stem cell biology, and wound healing
- understanding the controls and functions of hair follicle immune privilege and its disorders that lead to alopecia areata or scarring alopecia
- characterizing, selectively labelling, isolating and differentiating various stem cells populations associated with human scalp skin and its appendages
- role of clock genes and olfactory receptors in the control of human hair growth and pigmentation
Methodologically, Ralf employs mainly human hair follicle and scalp skin organ culture, K15-GFP+ human epithelial hair follicle stem cells, and immunohistology/immunofluorescence, gene expression profiling, and analyzes the hair and skin phenotype of relevant mouse mutants.