Every year the cosmetic industry rakes in millions of dollars by selling anti-aging creams and serums to those who want to appear youthful forever. However, a team of scientists have discovered that the secret to a smooth and unblemished complexion may lie in regenerative fatty cells and not external stimulants.
Smooth skin is attributed to fat cells called adipocytes. Scars and blemishes appear on the skin when these adipocytes are lost due to wounds or as a result of ageing. Fat cell loss is also a complication in certain medical conditions like HIV infections. The loss of fat cells is the main reason deep wrinkles start to appear with an advance in age.
In the recent study published in the journal Science, researchers attempted to mitigate the formation of scars by regenerating myofibroblasts (scar-forming cells) into fat cells. Their experiments were not only successful, but they have could have much wider implications than anticipated.
"Our findings can potentially move us toward a new strategy to regenerate adipocytes in wrinkled skin, which could lead us to brand new anti-ageing treatments," explained Professor George Cotsarelis of the University of Pennsylvania. "Essentially, we can manipulate wound healing so that it leads to skin regeneration rather than scarring. The secret is to regenerate hair follicles first. After that, the fat will regenerate in response to the signals from those follicles."
The laboratory studies showed that hair follicles release a signalling molecule, called Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP), which is vital to keeping wounded skin scar-free and smooth. It was discovered that BMP instructs myofibroblasts to transform themselves into adipocytes.
It was earlier believed that myofibroblasts are incapable of transforming into a different type of cell. However, the new research suggests that these scar-forming cells can be influenced to convert into fat cells in an efficient and stable manner.
The process was tested on both mouse and human scar-forming tissues grown in the lab as part of the study.