A team of researchers from University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, have discovered how to regenerate human skin using fat cells. According to the scientists, by generating the hair follicles first, the fat will regenerate in response to signals from them.
The type of skin cells that regenerate after we cut ourselves are called adipocytes, and are filled with fat cells in order to allow it to blend more easily with the unharmed skin as the wound heals.
Scar tissue that regenerates from deeper cuts are made up of cells called myofibroblasts. This tissue looks very different from the original skin, because they do not contain any fat cells or hair follicles.
“The findings show we have a window of opportunity after wounding to influence the tissue to regenerate rather than scar,” said the lead author of the study, Maksim Pikus, an assistant professor of Developmental and Cell Biology at the University of California, Irvine.
According to George Cotsarelis, chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania: ”the secret is to regenerate hair follicles first. After that, the fat will regenerate in response to the signals from those follicles.”
The scientists discovered that this signal is a factor called Bone Morphogenetic Protein, which tells myofibroblasts to turn into fat.
“Typically, myofibroblasts were thought to be incapable of becoming a different type of cell,” Cotsarelis said. “But our work shows we have the ability to influence these cells, and that they can be efficiently and stably converted into adipocytes.”
The study is still in its early stages, where only “proof of concept” has been shown. It has only been shown to work in mice and human skin samples.
However, scientists have faith that there could be a way to eventually be able to perform this on live humans, and solve the issue of scarring in the medical field.