Skin Fibroblasts for Skin Repair and Hair Growth

Scientists at King’s College London have for the first time identified the unique properties of two different types of fibroblast cells in the skin. One type is required for hair growth; and the other type is responsible for the repairing of skin wounds.

Fibroblasts and Skin Repair
Fibroblasts and Skin Repair.

The research was published in Nature and led by Dr. Fiona Watt, Director of the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. Also see Watt Lab for more on her team’s interesting work. Of the three skin layers (epidermis, dermis and hypodermis), they are most interested in the outermost epidermis layer.

Fibroblasts for Skin Repair and Hair Growth

Fibroblasts are a type of cell that is found in the connective tissue of our organs. They produce proteins that make up the ECM, such as collagen and elastin. Until this study came out, it was generally believed that all fibroblasts are the same cell type.

According to the new findings of this study (in mice), there are at least two distinct types of fibroblast cells in the skin:

  • Those in the upper layer of connective tissue that are required for the formation of hair follicles.
  • Those in the lower layer of connective tissue. These fibroblasts are responsible for making most of the skin’s collagen fibres. Along with the initial repair mechanism wave after skin is damaged.

The research team found that the quantity of these skin fibroblasts can be increased by signals from the overlying epidermis. Moreover, an increase in fibroblasts in the upper layer of the skin results in hair follicles forming during wound healing. These findings could ultimately lead to treatments that can repair injured human skin, and also reduce the impact of ageing on skin function.

According to Professor Fiona Watt, the thickness and compostion of human skin deteriorate as we age. This means that older skin is more prone to injury and takes a longer time to heal. The key reason could be due to a loss of upper dermal fibroblasts. Therefore it may be possible to restore the skin’s youthful elasticity by finding ways to stimulate these cells to regrow. Such an approach might ultimately  stimulate hair growth and also reduce scarring.

The goal of this research is skin repair, but in the process it will also shed light on yet another potential avenue to a hair loss cure. It should be noted, however, that clinical trials are still required to examine the effectiveness of injecting different types of fibroblasts into human skin.

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