Scientists discover sweat gland stem cells to regenerate the skin

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Sweat gland stem cell research

Related tags Developmental biology Stem cell Cellular differentiation

Researchers at the University of Southern California have delved into the origin of sweat. A project that the team reveals will ultimately lead to better treatments for tissue regeneration and excessive sweating conditions.

Krzysztof Kobielak, Professor of pathology at the Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research center at USC and his fellow researchers have discovered that over time, some of the sweat gland stem cells they had been studying under UV light, did not divide or divided very slowly, a property known among stem cells of certain tissues. 

After a four week period, the team found the only cells to remain fluorescent were those that did not divide or divided very slowly — a known property among stem cells of certain tissues, including the hair follicle and cornea. Thus meaning that slow-dividing, fluorescent cells in the sweat gland's coiled lower region were likely also stem cells.

"That was a big surprise for us that those very quiescent sweat gland stem cells maintain multilineage plasticity — participating not only in their own regeneration, but also in the regeneration of hair follicles and skin after injury​," Kobielak explains.

Sweat cells have regenerating properties

The first author of the paper, graduate student Yvonne Leung also tested whether these fluorescent cells could do what they do best — differentiate into multiple cell types. To her surprise, they not only generated sweat glands, but also hair follicles when placed in the skin of a mouse without GFP.

According to the scientists, this latest discovery offers exciting possibilities for developing future stem cell-based treatments for skin and sweat gland-related conditions, such as hyperhidrosis or hypohidrosis (excessive or insufficient sweating). It could also lay the foundation for creating fully functional skin containing both sweat glands and hair follicles.

The research appeared in PLOS ONE​, which also seen the team determine that under certain conditions, the sweat gland stem cells could heal skin wounds and regenerate all layers of the epidermis.

Stem cell research – high importance in the industry of late...

In cosmetics, stem cell technologies have become popular due to their developed understanding and anti-aging properties. An important function of the cells is to repair damaged tissue. 

Another recent study carried out by a team from BRIC, University of Copenhagen and Cambridge University, uses a unique method based on new technology to understand how skin is maintained and renews itself.

The results of this study show that the different stem cell populations collaborate across their normal functions, to repair the skin as fast as possible. However, this can also cause harm, as these changes can "wake up" genes in the stem cells and give rise to cancer. The new results consequently also contributed with new knowledge on the origin of skin cancer.

Related topics Formulation & Science Skin Care

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