“The GPS System” of the Human Body

Jamie Talan in Newsday:

3t3dapilargeWhen it comes to skin cells, everything is location, location, location.

Scientists at Stanford University have found that fibroblasts — cells that produce collagen, reticulin and other elastic fibers contained in skin — behave differently in every part of the body, a discovery that one day may be useful in tissue engineering.

Like a Global Positioning System, fibroblasts in tissue from the head to the toes send out different signals that basically act like signposts, telling skin cells where they reside. It’s a mapping system that had never been seen so clearly until the Stanford discovery — and it could have implications for understanding the genetic codes that make skin cells on the head grow hair and those on the palm remain smooth and hairless throughout a lifetime.

“It’s very interesting,” said Craig Crews, an associate professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale. “Now that we know there is a system like this, we can start to tease out what the signals are.”

More here.