Scientists in the US have discovered a natural key ingredient in the fight against anti-ageing – and it’s part of something you’ve been trying to get rid of for years. The team at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered a way to manipulate the wound healing process so that it regenerates skin rather than creating scarring.
The ingredient is called Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP), a signalling molecule found in hair follicles. BMP instructs scar-forming cells to transform into adipocytes, a fatty cell found in healing wounds that are lost when scars form or the skin ages.
“Essentially, we can manipulate wound healing so that it leads to skin regeneration rather than scarring,” said lead scientist Professor George Cotsarelis from the University of Pennsylvania.
“Our work shows we have the ability to influence these cells, and that they can be efficiently and stably converted into adipocytes.”
“The secret is to regenerate hair follicles first. After that, the fat will regenerate in response to the signals from those follicles.”
Scar tissue and ageing skin doesn’t contain fat cells or hair follicles, so instead of blending into the surrounding skin, the wound or patch of skin looks permanently different. This method is how discoloured and wrinkled skin is created.
“The findings show we have a window of opportunity after wounding to influence the tissue to regenerate rather than scar,” said team member Maksim Plikus, an assistant professor of Developmental and Cell Biology from the University of California.
Researchers grew hair follicles in newly forming scar tissue, where they proceeded to release BMP as soon as they started forming. The resulting skin was indistinguishable from the pre-existing skin.
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