Skin ages when the main cells in the dermis lose their identity and function

November 9, 2018, Centre for Genomic Regulation
Skin of a young mouse. The image shows a cross section of the skin with the fibroblasts indicated in green. The thickness of the dermis and the density of fibroblasts is much greater in young skin than in aged skin– cell nuclei, in blue. Credit: M Salzer, IRB Barcelona

With age, tissues lose their function and capacity to regenerate after being damaged. A study published today in Cell by scientists at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and the Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico of the Center for Genomic Regulation(CNAG-CRG) explains how dermal fibroblasts age.

The main conclusion is that these fibroblasts lose their , as if they had forgotten what they are, and consequently their activity is altered, thus affecting tissue. The study reveals the cellular and molecular pathways affected by ageing and proposes that they could be manipulated to delay or even reverse the ageing process.

The skin

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 people age, the dermis loses its capacity to produce collagen, and consequently its capacity to repair wounds is also significantly impaired.

"The elderly face many problems in this regard, because their skin does not heal properly and its barrier properties are decreased, thus increasing the risk of skin infections and systemic infections," explains Salvador Aznar Benitah, ICREA researcher at IRB Barcelona and leader of the study. "The notion that the loss of cell identity is one of the underlying causes of ageing is interesting and one that we believe hasn't been considered before," he says.

Holger Heyn, team leader at the CNAG-CRG and co-leader of the study, says, "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."

Authored by IRB Barcelona Ph.D. student Marion Salzer, the study demonstrates that, during ageing, skin fibroblasts start to acquire many traits that are characteristic of adipocytes (fat ). "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 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 says, "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."

Explore further: Investigators study how a protein factor contributes to cancer cell migration

More information: Marion Claudia Salzer et al. Identity Noise and Adipogenic Traits Characterize Dermal Fibroblast Aging, Cell (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.10.012

Related Stories

Investigators study how a protein factor contributes to cancer cell migration

November 1, 2018
UCLA researchers have discovered a new protein factor that contributes to a fibroblast cell's ability to migrate to a wound and participate in its healing process. The study's results could help scientists prevent cancer ...

Skin's own cells offer hope for new ways to repair wounds, reduce impact of aging on the skin

December 11, 2013
Scientists at King's College London have, for the first time, identified the unique properties of two different types of cells, known as fibroblasts, in the skin – one required for hair growth and the other responsible ...

Study: Adult human immune cells have stem cell-like function that stimulates healing

March 6, 2018
A new study led by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center shows that human immune cells have stem cell-like function that can help stop prolonged inflammation and stimulate healing.

Age-related changes in skin structure and lymphatic system promote melanoma metastasis

October 2, 2018
Changes in the structure of the skin and the lymphatic system that occur with the natural aging process create permissive conditions for melanoma metastasis, according to two studies by The Wistar Institute. These changes ...

Recommended for you

Precision neuroengineering enables reproduction of complex brain-like functions in vitro

November 14, 2018
One of the most important and surprising traits of the brain is its ability to dynamically reconfigure the connections to process and respond properly to stimuli. Researchers from Tohoku University (Sendai, Japan) and the ...

Want to cut down on your meds? Your pharmacist can help.

November 14, 2018
Pharmacists are pivotal in the process of deprescribing risky medications in seniors, leading many to stop taking unnecessary sleeping pills, anti-inflammatories and other drugs, a new Canadian study has found.

Immunity connects gut bacteria and aging

November 13, 2018
Over the years, researchers have learned that the different populations of bacteria that inhabit the gut have significant effects on body functions, including the immune system. The populations of gut bacteria are sometimes ...

Meditation and music may alter blood markers of cellular aging and Alzheimer's disease

November 13, 2018
A research team led by Dr. Kim Innes, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has found that a simple meditation or music listening program may alter certain biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer's ...

Health costs of ageism calculated at $63 billion annually, study finds

November 13, 2018
Ageism—a widespread form of prejudice that is directed at older persons—led to excess costs of $63 billion for a broad range of health conditions during one year in the United States, a new study by the Yale School of ...

Gene mutation found to cause macrocephaly and intellectual deficits

November 13, 2018
The absence of one copy of a single gene in the brain causes a rare, as-yet-unnamed neurological disorder, according to new research that builds on decades of work by a University at Buffalo biochemist and his colleagues.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.