Skin Lipids Project
One out of five premature infants who survive beyond three days have episodes of sepsis, a serious bacterial infection of the blood, with mortality rates as high as 50%. Infants are protected by their skin, which is a primary barrier for the prevention of infection. This core protective mechanism is underdeveloped in premature infants. The aim of the Skin Lipids Project is to characterize the composition and structural complexity of the lipids and proteins involved in maintaining an ideal skin barrier. The long-term goal is to implement nutritional strategies to improve the structural integrity of skin in premature infants, who suffer from insensible water loss, dehydration, and infection due to underdeveloped skin. This project involves the use of a variety of chromatography, mass spectrometry, and other analytical techniques to determine the composition of skin cells. Premature infants from across gestational stages are compared to healthy term infants and their health outcomes are evaluated in the context of skin barrier function. The project will ultimately develop nutritional strategies to enhance skin barrier function with the overall goal to reduce infection rates and improve survival of at-risk premature infants.