Trhough a new study scientists have shown how skin ages and in particular how the main cells in the dermis hold the key to keeping the skin young and full of life.
Scientists have shown how dermal fibroblasts age with the main conclusion being that these fibroblasts lose their cell identity, as if they had “forgotten” what they are, and consequently their activity is altered, thus affecting tissue. Scientists also reveal the cellular and molecular pathways affected by ageing and proposes that they could be manipulated to delay or even reverse the skin ageing process.
Dermal fibroblasts are key for the production of collagen and other proteins that make up the dermis and that preserve the skin’s function as a barrier. The activity of these cells is also crucial for the repair of skin damage. As we age, the dermis loses its capacity to produce collagen, and consequently its capacity to repair wounds is also significantly impaired.
Holger Heyn, team leader at the CNAG-CRG and co-leader of the study, explains that “cutting-edge technologies allow molecular analysis of individual cells. In this study, we have applied advanced techniques to obtain high resolution images of fibroblasts as they age”.
First-authored by IRB Barcelona PhD student Marion Salzer, the study demonstrates that, during ageing, skin fibroblasts start to acquire many traits that are characteristic of adipocytes (fat cells). “This leads to them losing their cell identify and they also stop producing and secreting collagen like they should,” explains Salzer.
The single-cell analysis confirmed the loss of fibroblast identity in aged animals. Using sophisticated computational tools, the scientists observed that aged fibroblasts show a less defined molecular conformation compared to young fibroblasts and that “they resemble the undefined cell states observed in newborn animals,” says Heyn.
Although being basic research, Aznar Benitah comments that “this new knowledge might not only have cosmetic applications, for example anti-aging skin treatment, but more importantly, also therapeutic applications aiming to help aged skin to form scar tissue faster and more efficiently after being damaged or after an operation”.