A team of scientists from the University of Michigan introduced a new study on how the skin repairs itself, bringing the possibility of organ regeneration one step closer.

They demonstrated in their study how the activation of some parts of the DNA leads to a better cell division in human cells. They identified two proteins that bind DNA, called transcription factors, that enhance the natural process of cell division in human skin.

Their study, entitled "Interaction of the NRF2 and p63 transcription factors promotes keratinocyte proliferation in the epidermis," was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Helmut Horten Foundation. It was published in Nucleic Acids Research, a journal of Oxford Academic.

 New Skin Repair Study Takes Organ Regeneration One Step Closer
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
3D Medical Animation Still Image Depicting Different Layers of Skin

Enhanced Natural Skin Cell Division

Typically, one in every fourth cell isolated from the inner layer of the human skin divides. But the new study demonstrates that the team of researchers was able to achieve 20%- 25% enhanced skin cell division naturally without using growth factors, according to the news release of the University of Michigan.

Although this could naturally occur, researchers said that it is difficult to extract. These molecules are presently used in the regeneration of skin, joints, and other commonly damaged organs.

As mentioned, researchers did not utilize growth factors but instead used the compound commonly found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages. This compound is called sulforaphane.

It activates the binding of transcription factors to certain parts of the DNA, the material that is responsible for cell division.

Moreover, researchers pointed out that mice models with genetically modified transcription factors were crucial in proving the DNA-mediated mechanism.

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Study lead author Dr. Svitiana Kurinna said that the endogenous mechanism their team discovered on the uses of the body's own processes that induce cell division in the skin suggests that the combined activity of the two transcription factors is essential in maintaining the capacity of the keratinocyte cells to proliferate.

According to Health Europa, one of the identified transcription factors is the skin cells' master regulator of the DNA, while the other one alleviates oxidative stress as a result of reactive oxygen species from the environment, inner metabolic processes, and toxins.

"Our skin can be easily damaged, which impacts the quality of life and in some cases, is life-threatening," Dr. Kurinna said. "However, we hope that this study provides some crucial insight into the process and lays the foundation for an exciting future investigating similar mechanisms in other organs."

Organ Regeneration

The Institute of Immunity and Transplantation defines organ regeneration as the process of implanting or integrating materials that are man-made into a person to replace damaged tissues or organs. Its purpose is to restore the specific function of organs to help a patient return to a normal life.

This is most relevant when conventional transplantation or also known as allotransplantation reaches its limits because not all organs can easily be transplanted due to technical and functional reasons. There is also a shortage of donor organs in most countries, and the possible side effects on those receiving transplants are extremely high.

Scientists hope that through organ regeneration, which is a combination of tissue engineering and advances in stem cell science, it could someday replace conventional transplants with personalized, highly functional organs and tissues without immunosuppression.

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