Research Reveals How Skin May Repair Itself


Activation of two transcription factors may enhance a natural process of skin cell division.

Activation of two transcription factors may enhance a natural process of skin cell division, a desirable outcome in regenerative medicine, according to a study in Nucleic Acid Research.

In normal conditions, one in every four cells isolated from the inner layer of the skin divides but the team achieved an increase by 20-25 percent.

Instead of growth factors, scientists used sulpharaphane, a compound found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages. Sulforaphane activates the binding of transcriptions factors to specific parts of the DNA, which controlled cell division and is one of a number of compounds that can work in this way.

While most of the research was done on human cells isolated directly from donor skin, mouse models with genetically modified transcription factors helped prove the DNA-mediated mechanism.

“We know that the skin sometimes cannot efficiently repair itself but the endogenous mechanism we discovered uses the body’s own processes to induce division of cells in the skin,” says study author Dr. Svitlana Kurinna in a news release.  “Our findings suggest that the combined activity of both transcription factors is important to maintain the proliferative capacity of keratinocytes.”

 The research focused on basal keratinocytes that represent the most inner growing layer, as well as on the layers closer to the surface of the skin, which can also play a crucial role in the healing process and are called supra basal. The over promotion of  cell division in basal layer could create the conditions for skin cancer but the activation of the supra basal .layer may be ‘cancer-proof,’ Kurinna notes.

 One of identified transcription factors is the master regulator of the DNA in skin cells while the other alleviates oxidative stress. Such stress is a result of reactive oxygen species from the environment, toxins, and the inner metabolic processes. Working  together, the transcription factors may protect and improve cell division without transforming them into cancer cells.

 “At the moment, once tissue becomes fibrotic and scarred, there’s no way of reversing it to fully functional state,” she says. “Our ultimate goal is to improve regeneration of functional skin – and maybe other organs with a similar endogenous mechanism.”


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