A team of researchers has discovered a new way to heal wounds without scars. In their study,  they used fat cells to prevent the wounds from healing into scars. The journal, Science, published this finding on Thursday,

The New Way to Heal Wounds

“Essentially, we can manipulate wound healing so that it leads to skin regeneration rather than scarring,” points out the study’s principal investigator, George Cotsarelis. He is the chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. “The secret is to regenerate hair follicles first. After that, the fat will regenerate in response to the signals from those follicles.”  The cells found in healing wounds are myofibroblasts, thought to be only capable of turning into a scar. In this scar, there are no hair follicles in it.

However, when these cells were turned into fat cells known as adipocytes, which are lost during wound healing, the wound does not cause scarring. To do this, the researchers determined that the Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) is an important component to turn the myofibroblasts into fat cells. As a result, the healed wound looks indistinguishable from the rest of the skin. The researchers have seen this effect on mouse and human keloid cells.

Healing Wounds Not Just For Dermatology

The findings could also have many applications beyond the field of dermatology. The researchers believe that it can also solve the problem of adipocyte loss seen in patients with HIV. It can also help improve deep wrinkles, which do not easily disappear with anti-aging treatments.

“Our findings can potentially move us toward a new strategy to regenerate adipocytes in wrinkled skin, which could lead us to brand new anti-aging treatments,” Cotsarelis added. The study’s lead author Maksim Plikus, an assistant professor of Developmental and Cell Biology at the University of California, Irvine, is studying other parts of cell reprogramming in skin wounds. Meanwhile, Cotsarelis is now studying on the mechanisms that encourage skin regeneration.