American scientists have proved the possibility of converting stem cells into healthy skin cells not in the laboratory, but on the surface of open cuts.
A team of researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Research in San Diego has developed a technique for converting cells on the surface of an open wound or ulcer into the cells of the upper layer of the skin, the epithelium. In an article published in the journal Nature, scientists describe the process of returning cells on the surface of a wound to a state similar to that of a stem cell and then directing them along the path of development of skin cells. The technique is promising as a method of healing ulcers, burns, bedsores and skin lesions in metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Also, it can be used to counteract the aging of the skin, the authors of the study believe.
Skin is capable of regeneration, but this ability is weakened with age, so as the population ages, non-healing skin lesions become an increasingly common problem. Usually, the skin of the patient or skin, grown in vitro from stem cells, is used to accelerate healing. Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte (Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte) and his colleagues managed to get the skin on the site of damage, without resorting to a transplant.
Scientists have worked with stem cells of the skin, which differentiate, migrating from deep layers to the surface. Under normal conditions, these cells most often turn into keratinocytes, of which 90% are healthy skin; However, when the integrity of the skin is broken, stem cells are mainly involved in the inflammatory process and do not form a new epithelium.
First, scientists isolated from the cells of the lower (basal) layer of the epidermis 55 proteins and RNA, which could potentially participate in the differentiation of stem cells along the path of keratinocytes. Then four proteins were identified by trial and error, which most influenced the differentiation. Treated deep cuts on the skin of mice with a “cocktail” of these four proteins, scientists for 18 days received a new epithelium on the surface of the cuts. Three months later and six months after the start of the experiment, cells from skin samples grown on the site of the cut turned out to be healthy for some microbiological, genetic and other indicators.
Before proceeding to clinical trials, scientists plan to test the technique on other models of skin lesions and make sure the method is safe.