What if I told you that the secret to avoiding scars is fat and hair? Scar tissue, as we’ve discussed before (read: The Problem with Scar Tissue), is not regular tissue and can impact your ability to move once it’s developed. While there are things we can do to improve the movement and hydration of scar tissues once they have formed, once you have a scar you are pretty much stuck with it.

A multi-year study recently completed at UC Irvine and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that they could induce skin regeneration in mice when hair follicles were introduced into the wound.

hair follicles in scar tissue helps grow fat and limit scar tissue development ae wellness
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Cells of mammals (aka you and me and most of the furry things in our world) are locked into what type/kind they are from birth. While there are a few locations throughout the adult body where adult stem cells exist (cells that can become any type of cell), for the most part, your skin cells are not suddenly becoming brain cells and your liver is not suddenly replicating as toenail cells.

The cells that aid in wound closure and healing are called myofibroblasts, and while they do a wonderful job of healing your skin to protect against future invaders, they are not able to reproduce “normal” skin cells. You see this on your own body – anywhere you had an injury now has a scar. Whether it was a deep wound or a superficial wound, the skin that grows in its place is different than what you started with.

Scars are different from regular skin because they lack hair follicles and fat. The researchers in the study found that they were able to reprogram the myofibroblasts into regrowing regular skin when hair follicles were present. Once the hair follicles were present, fat cells also were able to grow, allowing for the wound to have the two features that previously set it apart from regular skin.

While this is emerging research and I don’t anticipate seeing hair follicle injections on the menu at your next dermatology appointment, this is very exciting discovery.

Imagine the difference it would make for a burn patient to not be covered in disfiguring scars that limit movement. Or the difference in abdominal surgery healing when a scar no longer inhibits the motion and activation of the deepest core musculature. I am looking forward to additional research in this field and the future of wound healing!

References:

Liggins, Marc Christopher. “Elucidating the Role of Phosphoinositides in Melanogenesis: PIKfyve Regulates Melanogenic Processes through the Synthesis of PI (3, 5) P2 and PI (5) P.” (2016).
You can read the whole study here: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2017/01/04/science.aai8792


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