Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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About Skin - II Becoming Thick Skinned

Cell-division mechanism, the spindle, regulates the balance between cell loss and overgrowth

24 October 2019

Becoming Thick Skinned

Your skin takes quite a battering from pollution, the weather and wear and tear. Maintaining this tissue requires a balance between cell loss and cell division. Researchers investigate this fine balance in mice, focusing on the intracellular ‘machinery’ responsible for separating cells as they divide – the spindle. It’s already known that in progenitors – cells that can develop into a variety of mature cells – the orientation of the spindle affects whether cell division results in two new progenitors (symmetrical cell division) or one progenitor and one cell that matures, say into a skin cell (asymmetrical cell division). Using fluorescence microscopy, researchers found applying the chemical TPA to stimulate cell division caused skin to thicken (bottom) compared to untreated skin (top). Taking a closer look revealed that TPA increased asymmetric cell divisions, as did activating a cancer gene. Spindle orientation does therefore have an important role to play in how our skin responds to damage.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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