For hundreds of years, scientists have theorized about how our bodies grow new skin cells and slough off the old. One virtual skin model may reveal the truth about our skin and hold the key to slowing the effects of aging and even preventing skin cancer.
The University of Sheffield partnered with Procter & Gamble to develop a computer model of human skin that captures how the outer layers of skin are developed and maintained over time. This model simulation of skin was used to test popular theories of how skin cells regenerate our skin over a three-year period.
Only one theory enabled the virtual skin to keep regenerating for three years.
"The theory which seems to fit best says that skin has a population of 'sleeping' stem cells, which sit in the lowest layer of the skin but don't constantly divide to make new cells," said Dr. Xinshan Li, University of Sheffield Faculty of Engineering. "However, these sleeping cells can be called into action if the skin is damaged, or if the numbers of other types of more mature skin cells decrease, ensuring that the skin can be constantly regenerated under all conditions."
The model illustrates that we gradually lose sleeping stem cells over time, which is why our skin’s ability to regenerate reduces as we get older.
“Each time we wake up these cells, to heal a wound or replenish stocks of other cells, a few of them don't go back into sleep mode, so the population slowly reduces," said Dr. Li. "This explains why older skin is slower to heal and in part why our skin changes as we age.”
Researchers also found that ultraviolet exposure or chronic wounding can cause sleeping cells to hide the mutations that cause skin cancers.
"The stem cells can harbor mutations throughout the years, but with no effect if they're still in sleep mode," explained Dr. Li. "However, when they start to divide to heal a wound for example, this could trigger the cancer. If it's possible to study this phenomenon for long periods of time it may be possible to find ways to prevent the activation of mutated cells and therefore reduce the risk of developing the disease."
Although this research shows that our ability to regenerate skin cells diminishes over time, there are ways to keep your skin looking youthful and fresh. Greenville Dermatology offers a myriad of services to turn back the years, including chemical peels, intense pulsed light therapy, Juvederm injectables, microdermabrasion and more. Call us today at (864)242-5872 to schedule an appointment and to discuss the best anti-aging option for you.