The skin is the largest organ of the body. It has an array of functions. It acts as a barrier to dehydration, a sensory and thermoregulatory organ and as an active site of vitamin D synthesis. Among all the specialties, one is the ability of the skin to regenerate. It is due to the stem cells present within the epidermis. With time and age, its potential decreases. Old skin is not as good as young skin at healing. Now researchers are working on stem cells enhancing skin regeneration.
Study on stem cells enhancing skin regeneration
In a study, researchers have revealed that skin stem cells can only repair skin if it is able to move towards the injury. Skin stem cells are also known as keratinocyte stem cells. They are responsible for skin repair and wound closure through a process called re-epithelialization. Live-imaging and computer experiments showed that movement of skin stem cells is linked with their regenerative capacity. Hence, old skin stem cells have reduced motility due to its decreased restoring ability.
To understand the mechanism behind this, the scientists compared wound healing ability of the skin stem cells from young mice (12 weeks old) and aged mice (19-25 months old). According to the experiments, a specific molecule, EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) drives skin stem cell motility. As a result of aging, EGFR signaling decreases. Also, EGFR acts by stopping the break-down of a specific type of collagen, COL17A1, which is important to hold the layers of the skin together.
Interestingly, COL17A1 orders the movement of skin stem cells towards the injury by managing actin and keratin filament networks in the cells. The researchers found that with age, a decrease in EGFR signaling occurs. Hence, leading to lower levels of COL17A1 and skin stem cells with reduced mobility. Therefore, slow healing of the wound.
With the increase in age, the development of so-called chronic disorders like diabetic ulcers and pressure sores, causes reduced skin wound healing ability. By stabilizing COL17A1, they can improve the decline in skin regeneration observed with age which can lead to serious problems. It is possible by regulating its proteolysis which can prove to be a promising therapeutic approach.
Further study and research in this field may lead to the development of new therapeutic treatments. Giving a hope to boost skin regeneration by skin stem cells.