Most people develop scars at some point in their lives, and they can range from minuscule to severe, depending on the injury that caused them. Now, doctors say they’ve conducted new research that found a way to prevent scarring entirely.
The study, which was published in the journal Science, analyzed wound healing in mice and lab-grown skin cultures and discovered that fat can help skin repair itself without leaving scar tissue behind.
Scar tissue is different from normal skin in that it doesn’t contain fat cells, lead study author Maksim Plikus, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of Developmental and Cell Biology at the University of California, Irvine, explains to Yahoo Beauty. It also doesn’t contain hair follicles and sweat glands, study co-author George Cotsarelis, MD, the chair of the department of Dermatology and the Milton Bixler Hartzell professor of dermatology at the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania, tells Yahoo Beauty. As a result, scar tissue has a different appearance from that of normal skin.
In the study, researchers discovered that when mice had a wound, they regenerated hair follicles, and fat formed around those follicles. “We figured out the signals that are important for regeneration of hair follicles and those that are important for fat,” Cotsarelis says. They then took cells from keloids, raised scars that can form after an injury, and treated them with bone morphogenetic protein, which helps create the kind of fat cells normally present in skin. With this process, normal skin grew back instead of scar tissue, eliminating the possibility of scars.
Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital tells Yahoo Beauty that scars develop relatively quickly. “While they do the job, they oftentimes do not give the cosmetic outcome the patients are looking for,” says Zeichner, who did not work on the study. Scars can also become thick and itchy and can even interfere with normal functioning for people, especially if they occur on the hands or face, he says, which is why this new development is so important. Zeichner says it would be a “home run” if a wound-repairing product could come out of this research. “It would mean that scar tissue would more closely resemble normal skin,” he says.
Plikus says he hopes that his findings can one day be used to help restore fat lost in scars and help combat deep wrinkles. Unfortunately, he can’t speculate how soon this method will make it to the market, but he says he anticipates more follow-up studies to further advance the technique. Cotsarelis agrees: “We’re not there yet.”