Can normal skin be regenerated without the formation of scar tissue?
Life does not leave most people without a trace. Whether due to falls and injuries in childhood, later accidents while playing sports or surgical interventions, almost everyone carries scars with them. Researchers have now discovered a way to heal wounds without scarring.
The researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Irvine, found in their investigation that wound healing without scarring is possible. With a new method, doctors can regenerate normal skin in wounds without creating normal scar tissue. The experts published the results of their study in the journal "Sciene".
Skin regeneration without scarring was previously considered impossible
The regeneration of normal skin - without scarring - in the presence of deeper wounds was previously considered impossible in mammals. But now medical doctors have managed to achieve such a scar-free wound healing. Wound healing was manipulated in such a way that healthy skin regeneration instead of scar formation occurred, explains researcher George Cotsarelis from the University of Pennsylvania.
The regeneration of hair follicles leads to amazing effects
The secret of the new method is to regenerate the hair follicles first. After that, the fat will also regenerate in response to the signals from the follicles, the researchers report. To explain: Scar tissue does not contain fat cells or hair follicles, say the experts.
Scar tissue and aging skin are related to adipocytes
The skin over a small, superficial cut is regenerated by filling it with fat cells. These are also known as adipocytes. On the other hand, scar tissue consists almost entirely of cells, which are called myofibroblasts and contain no fat cells at all, the doctors say. This creates the typical appearance of scarred skin. The same applies to aging skin. As we age, we lose our adipocytes. This leads to discoloration and deep and irreversible wrinkles, the authors explain in their study.
Scar tissue with healing skin can be transformed
The American scientists have now discovered that existing myofibroblasts can actually be converted into adipocytes. This result suggests that scar tissue can be converted into regenerated skin in healing wounds. So far it has been assumed that this is only possible with fish and amphibians.
Hair follicles always develop first in regenerating skin
There is a possibility after a wound that tissue is regenerated. This can prevent scarring, explains the author Maksim Plikus from the University of California, Irvine. Previous studies have shown that fat cells and hair follicles develop separately in the regenerating skin. However, this does not happen independently of one another. Hair follicles always develop first, the expert adds.
Regeneration tested in laboratory tests on mice and on human skin samples
The doctors examined whether the growth of the hair follicles actually supports the growth of fat cells in the regenerating skin. So the experts checked the effects if they let hair follicles grow in newly formed scar tissue in mice and in human skin samples from the laboratory. Such a process would never occur in nature because scar tissue contains no hair follicles.
BMP can convert myofibroblasts into adipocytes
The doctors found that the hair follicles contain a so-called signaling protein. This is called Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP). The protein actually appears to be able to convert myofibroblasts into adipocytes, the experts explain. When the researchers induced hair follicles into a healing wound, the resulting skin was indistinguishable from pre-existing skin. Cotsarelis explains that it was actually assumed that myofibroblasts are unable to switch to another cell type. However, the new research now shows that we have the opportunity to influence these cells. This way, they can be efficiently converted into adipocytes, the expert adds.
The results of the study are a major medical breakthrough
The experiment worked on mice and human skin samples. However, the growth of hair follicles in a wound in a living person is a completely different problem. Nevertheless, the conversion of myofibroblasts into adipocytes is a major breakthrough, because this process was previously biologically impossible in mammals, the authors explain.
More research is needed
If the team could somehow reproduce the results in a human study, it would lead to a whole new way of wound healing. With this, the regenerated skin would be indistinguishable from normal skin, say the experts. With their findings, the doctors hope to enable wound healing without scars in the future. (as)