Stem cells from skin appendages: hopeful for healing wounds

A new review published in Burns & Trauma has suggested skin appendage-derived stem cells can play a potential role in wound repair. Here author Sha Huang tells us more about these findings.

Human skin and its appendages ensure a number of critical functions necessary for survival. Our body’s skin appendages, such as hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous glands are seemingly unremarkable; but are a source of stem cells particularly suited to healing wounds.

Although some of these cells are still in the immature phase of research, within a few years these newly identified skin appendage-derived stem cells may prove their potency in forming new skin cells and managing the healing process.

Our body’s skin appendages … are a source of stem cells particularly suited to healing wounds.

Skin appendages or appendage-derived stem cells are a popular topic for biomedical researchers. PubMed, in 2015, collected over 982 references for “skin appendage” and more than 8731 for “skin appendage stem cells or skin stem cells”. Some of these are comprehensive recent reviews on skin appendages and skin appendage-derived stem cells. However, studies treating wound healing with these stem cells are seldom discussed.

Investigating the reason for this, there are two main points: (1) The cell source is limited. Due to the special period and portion and limited quantity of appendage derived stem cells, they are difficult to isolate and purify. Moreover, the molecular and cellular mechanisms of skin appendage-derived stem cells for wound healing are not distinct. (2) Mice were the most commonly used animal model for researches of skin appendage-derived stem cells, but the complex symptom of different wounds is difficult to completely reproduce in mice models.

We’re still a long way from fully understanding every aspect of skin appendage-derived progenitor/stem cells, but we should point to the need for greater attention to their hopeful role in healing wounds. The hope is that, unlike conventional stem cell based therapy, appendage-derived progenitor/stem cells hold great promise in recovering the functional and structural integrity of skin.

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