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Home > Articles > Research Could Revolutionize Treatment for Scars, Anti-aging and Hair Loss

Research Could Revolutionize Treatment for Scars, Anti-aging and Hair Loss

by Alex Kilpatrick

King’s College London researchers recently identified the unique properties of two different types of skin cells, known as fibroblasts.

According to the scientists, one fibroblast type is responsible for hair growth and the other is necessary for repairing skin wounds.

This newfound discovery could pave the way for treatments to repair injured skin and reduce the negative impact of aging on skin function.

A type of cell found in the connective tissue of organs, fibroblasts produce such proteins as collagen.

King’s researchers published a study on mice in Nature in mid December, indicating that there are at least two different types of fibroblasts in the skin. One type in the upper layer of connective tissue is necessary for the formation of hair follicles. The other, found in the lower layer, is responsible for creating most of the skin’s collagen fibers and for the initial wave of skin repair.

The study displayed that the number of fibroblasts could be increased by signals from the overlying epidermis. This increase in fibroblasts in the skin’s upper layer in turn causes the formation of hair follicles during wound healing, a new finding that could lead to treatments to reduce scarring.

“Changes to the thickness and composition of the skin as we age mean that older skin is more prone to injury and takes longer to heal,” Professor Fiona Watt, lead author and Director of the Center for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London, told “It is possible that this reflects a loss of upper dermal fibroblasts and therefore it may be possible to restore the skin’s elasticity by finding ways to stimulate those cells to grow. Such an approach might also stimulate hair growth and reduce scarring.

“Although an early study, our research sheds further light on the complex architecture of the skin and the mechanisms triggered in response to skin wounds. The potential to enhance the skin’s response to injury and aging is hugely exciting. However, clinical trials are required to examine the effectiveness of injecting different types of fibroblasts into the skin of humans.”

“These findings are an important step in our understanding of how the skin repairs itself following injury and how that process becomes less efficient as we age,” Dr. Paul Colville-Nash, program manager for Regenerative Medicine at the MRC, told “The insights gleaned from this work will have wide-reaching implications in the area of tissue regeneration and have the potential to transform the lives patients who have suffered major burns and trauma.”

The King’s College London research was funded by the Welcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and both Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Center at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London.

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