In a recent study published in eLife, researchers found that a newly identified genetic factor allows adult skin to repair itself like the skin of a newborn babe.
The finding has implications for better skin wound treatment as well as preventing some of the aging processes in the skin.
The research is from Washington State University.
In the study, the researchers identified a factor that acts as a molecular switch in the skin of baby mice that controls the formation of hair follicles as they develop during the first week of life.
The switch is mostly turned off after skin forms and remains off in adult tissue. When it was activated in specialized cells in adult mice, their skin was able to heal wounds without scarring.
The reformed skin even included fur and could make goosebumps, an ability that is lost in adult human scars.
Mammals are not known for their regenerative abilities compared to other organisms, such as salamanders that can regrow entire limbs and regenerate their skin.
The current study suggests that the secret to human regeneration might be found by studying our own early development.
The team used a new technique called single-cell RNA sequencing to compare genes and cells in developing and adult skin.
In developing skin, they found a transcription factor—proteins that bind to DNA and can influence whether genes are turned on or off.
The factor the researchers identified was linked to the development of a layer of skin just below the surface that gives skin its tension and youthful appearance.
When the researchers activated the factor in adult mouse skin, it enhanced the skins’ ability to regenerate wounds with reduced scarring, even growing new hair follicles that could make goosebumps.
A lot of work still needs to be done before this latest discovery in mice can be applied to human skin, but this is a foundational advance.
With support from a new grant from the National Institutes of Health, the research team will continue working to understand how other factors work to repair skin.
If you care about skin health, please read studies about black raspberries show promise for reducing skin inflammation and findings of common blood pressure drug may increase skin cancer risk.
For more information about skin diseases, please see recent studies about simple skin test could identify Parkinson’s disease and results showing that why some common high blood pressure drugs can cause skin inflammation.
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