Regeneration of fat cells from myofibroblasts during wound healing

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Science  17 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6326, pp. 748-752
DOI: 10.1126/science.aai8792

Hair follicles: Secret to prevent scars?

Although some animals easily regenerate limbs and heal broken flesh, mammals are generally not so gifted. Wounding can leave scars, which are characterized by a lack of hair follicles and cutaneous fat. Plikus et al. now show that hair follicles in both mice and humans can convert myofibroblasts, the predominant dermal cell in a wound, into adipocytes (see the Perspective by Chan and Longaker). The hair follicles activated the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway and adipocyte transcription factors in the myofibroblast. Thus, it may be possible to reduce scar formation after wounding by adding BMP.

Science, this issue p. 748; see also p. 693


Although regeneration through the reprogramming of one cell lineage to another occurs in fish and amphibians, it has not been observed in mammals. We discovered in the mouse that during wound healing, adipocytes regenerate from myofibroblasts, a cell type thought to be differentiated and nonadipogenic. Myofibroblast reprogramming required neogenic hair follicles, which triggered bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling and then activation of adipocyte transcription factors expressed during development. Overexpression of the BMP antagonist Noggin in hair follicles or deletion of the BMP receptor in myofibroblasts prevented adipocyte formation. Adipocytes formed from human keloid fibroblasts either when treated with BMP or when placed with human hair follicles in vitro. Thus, we identify the myofibroblast as a plastic cell type that may be manipulated to treat scars in humans.

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