A joint team of researchers from the Irvine’s Pilkus Laboratory for Development and Regenerative Biology, University of California, and University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine focused of regenerating fat cells that are lost during a wound’s healing process that oftentimes results in scarring.
Scientists have observed that scarred tissue is lacking hair follicles. Also, the researchers were able to show that even though fat and hair develop separately, they don’t do it independently. This led the team to believe that by promoting hair to grow on scarred tissue, fat cells, otherwise known as adipocytes will also form.
“The secret is to regenerate hair follicles first”, said the study’s lead investigator, Dr. George Cotsarelis.
He further added that fat cells will develop in response to signals from the hair follicles.
Turning the most common cell type, known as myofibroblasts into fat cells was thought to be impossible in humans. However, the scientists were able to identify the cause behind myofibroblasts turning into fat cells. According to the study authors, Bone Morphogenetic Protein is responsible for providing myofibroblasts with the set of instructions required to turn into fat cells.
So far, trials conducted both on mice, as well as human cells proved the process is highly efficient and stable. However, getting rid of the scarring tissue might not be the only application. Fat cells are also lost during the aging process. In this case, the practice could advance further developments in cosmetics, particularly anti-aging treatments.
Apart from losing fat cells in the healing process, the lack of adipocytes is also associated with numerous conditions, such as HIV. In this case, however, no effective treatment has been yet developed. Even though results so far are promising, the team of researchers will need to further study the process. In order for future advancements to be made, the Costarelis Lab is going to focus on the mechanism that promotes hair follicle regeneration. At the same time, Pilkus Laboratory will examine other signaling factors, work on other aspects associated with cell programming in wounds, and ultimately conduct experiments on scar tissues collected from human subjects.
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