Molecular atlas of skin cells


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The skin protects against physical damage, radiation and microbes and at the same time produces hair and promotes sweating. Details on how skin cells are able to perform such divergent tasks have remained undisclosed so far. Now researchers at the Karolinska Institute of Sweden have systematically compiled skin cells and their genetic programs, making it difficult to produce detailed molecular atlas of skin. The study is published today in the scientific journal Cell Stem Cell.

Mammalian skin provides a waterproof protective barrier to the outside world, produces hair and harbors sweat glands. The complexity of this tissue requires many types of cells, such as fibroblasts, immune cells, nerve cells, and pigment cells. To study the skin systematically, researchers at the Karolinska Institute have identified genes that are active in thousands of individual cells using a technique called single-stranded RNA sequencing. While testing the hair from the skin and its hair follicles at various stages of hair growth, the researchers found how the cells are coordinated at the stage of hair growth and relaxation.

"We found over 50 different types of cells in the skin, including new variations of cell types that were not described previously." – says Maria Kasper, head of the research team at the Department of Biology and Nutrition, Karolinska Institute. "We have also seen that most skin cells have different phases of hair growth."

As part of their research, researchers have determined exactly where these cells are in the skin and which genes they express. The authors made this information available through the Open Access Atlas, helping others interested in specific genes to quickly find out where and what they expressed. In contrast, researchers interested in specific cells can find out how gene expression changes during their task specification. Researchers beyond this atlas believed that this information would be useful to other scientists studying for example skin diseases, wound healing or skin cancer.

Using their own atlas, the authors have made many discoveries. For example, they found that the outermost layer of the hair follicle consists of several types of cells that are organized in a specific way. They were also able to see how hair progenitors, a stem cell type that has begun to specialize in specific parts of the hair follicle, go through different molecular stages.

"It gives us a vital insight into skin flexibility, what skin does to maintain its function and structure in a variety of situations," said Simon Joost, first author and most recently a graduate of the Maria Casper Research Group. "This knowledge can help us understand the flexibility of other organs, how they are updated and respond to different needs."

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More info:
"The Molecular Anatomy of the Mouse Skin During Hair Growth and Rest," – Simon Joost, Carl Anuswer, Tina Jacobs, Xiaoyan Sun, Tim Dalessandri, Unnikrishnan Sivan, Inês Sequeira, Richard Sandberg and Maria Casper. Cell Stem Cell, Online, February 27, 2020, DOI: 10.1016 / j.stem.2020.01.012

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Karolinsky Institute

Molecular Atlas of Skin Cells (2020, February 27)
Retrieved February 27, 2020

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