Skin remembers being injured, according to research in Science. As the body’s first defense against environmental damage, skin cells are able to retain a “memory” of damage to help speed up the healing process after subsequent injury and maintain skin integrity.
Skin cells residing in the epithelium—the skin’s outermost layer—slough off the skin’s surface before these memories can form. Instead, stem cells in the skin barrier that replenish the outer layer maintain lasting impressions of inflammation.
However, this comes at a cost. By retaining this information, skin can more easily relapse into symptoms of inflammatory disorders such as psoriasis, in which cells cycle quickly to cause its signature plaques and itch. The study’s researchers from The Rockefeller University are hopeful that their findings will help to find a way to slow this process.
“A better understanding of how inflammation affects stem cells and other components of tissue will revolutionize our understanding of many diseases, including cancer, and likely lead to novel therapies,” said Shruti Naik, one of the study’s authors.
Researchers found that wounds on mice who had been previously injured closed at over twice the speed of those who were not. This occurred from what the researchers describe as “key stress response genes,” including Aim2, that are activated after the initial inflammation and effectively remember how to boost stem cells to a quicker recovery the next time around.
For more on this process, head to The Rockefeller University (source).