Youwen Zhou

Physician Scientist
Degrees / Designations 


Email Address 
Mailing Address 
The Skin Care Centre 835 West 10th Ave Vancouver, BC V5Z 4E8 Canada


Academic Appointment 
Body Locations and Systems 
Skin Cancer
Disorders and Conditions 
Other Areas of Research 
Skin cancers
Skin inflammation
Skin pigmentation
Genetic Skin diseases

Dr. Zhou received his BS degree from Nankai University, China,  PhD in Molecular Genetics from the State University of New York, and MD degree from University of Toronto. After completing dermatology specialty training at the University of British Columbia, he joined UBC Faculty of Medicine as a physician scientist in dermatology in 2000, and was promoted to full professor with tenure in 2013. He founded the UBC Molecular Medicine Lab and Chieng Genomics Center at VCHRI with infrastructure funding from Canada Foundation for Innovation in 2001.

Dr Zhou's research is centered on biomarkers of skin diseases such as skin lymphoma, melanoma, and vitiligo, using a wide variety of methods and approaches, including GWAS, linkage analysis, next generational sequencing, transcriptional profiling, cellular and animal models, as well as genome editing.   Dr Zhou has published more than 90 articles in journals such as Nature, Cell, Nature Genetics, and Blood, and holds multiple patents in skin lymphoma diagnostic biomarkers.  In 2013, Dr Zhou was awarded Barney Usher Award for Outstanding Achievements in Dermatology Research from Canadian Dermatology Association.

Dr Zhou specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers and skin pigmentation disorders, and is a consultant dermatologist at Vancouver General Hospital and British Columbia Cancer Agency. He teaches graduate students, medical students, dermatology residents and postdoctoral fellows.

Dr Zhou is the past president of Canadian Society of Investigative Dermatology, and served as an ad board member for CIHR Institute of Musculosketal Health and Arthritis (IMHA). He is also a grant reviewer for CIHR, Canadian Dermatology Foundation, and Natural Sciences Foundation of China. 

Current Projects 

1. Metastatic melanoma: Novel extracellular matrix molecules have been identified from metastatic melanoma tissues and cultured cell lines, including collagen-triple-helix-repeat containing protein 1 (CTHRC1) and alpha-1 antichymotrypsin (ACT1). Using in vitro and in vivo models, the contribution of these proteins to melanoma metastasis and mortality is being studied. Novel therapeutic strategies targeting these molecules are currently being studied and evaluated. 2. Mechanism of melanocyte cell death in vitiligo: Vitiligo is the most common depigmentation disease of the skin that affects approximately 1.5% of population worldwide. The mechanism of pathogenesis is unknown. Genomic markers identified in this lab highlight the importance of both autoimmunity and melanocyte development in this disease. The current focus is on the role of NK T cells and tissue microenvironment in the death of melanocytes in this disease. 3. Cutaneous T cell lymphoma and Sezary syndrome: Sezary syndrome is an aggressive form of skin T cell lymphoma that has high mortality. The malignant cells in this disease, the Sezary cells, have been purified and found to contain unique molecular markers. These markers, including T-plastin and SATB1, are studied for their diagnostic value and functional significance in malignant transformation of T lymphocytes. 4. Primary focal hyperhidrosis: Primary focal hyperhidrosis is characterized by uncontrollable perspiration of hands, feet and the underarms. Affecting about 5% of the population worldwide, this condition frequently causes severe negative impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of the affected children and adults. Preliminary research from this laboratory suggests that this condition is an autosomal dominantly inherited disease with manifestations in the skin and in the central nervous system. We are interested in building a clinical database with banking of the blood samples to isolate the gene mutations or polymorphisms that are associated with the development of this disease. The goal is to find a cure for this common genetic condition.