Research Study Informs “Skin Cancer Might Start From Skin Follicles”

Skin cancers have become a common sight these days with ultraviolet radiation taking its potential peak due to climate change.

zA new study by New York University through their research work has proved that there are deadly skin cancers that breed in stem cells. This later gives color to the hair rather in skin layers.

Hair follicles have immature pigments and are complex organs that reside in skin layers. The immature pigments are capable of developing cancer-causing genetic changes and acts as a barrier to healthy hair growth.

The study has been published in the journal Nature communications and has been successful in proving that the cancerous pigment stem cells migrate up and down hair follicles to form melanomas in the skin before spreading deeper. The study has been conducted on genetically engineered mice with the results in human tissue samples.

The stem cells mature into melanocytes a type of cell that helps in making protein pigment melanin. Melanin, on the other hand, protects our skin from the sun’s ultraviolet, DNA-damaging rays. When the hair follicles absorb the wavelength of visible light, pigments create hair color.

By confirming that oncogenic pigment cells in hair follicles are a bona fide source of melanoma, we have a better understanding of this cancer’s biology and new ideas about how to counter it,” said study author Mayumi Ito Suzuki, Associate Professor at New York University.

The team carefully used steps with the help of a new mouse model to study melanoma, engineered in a way where the team is able to edit genes in follicular melanocyte stem cells only. Similarly, they were able to introduce genetic changes that made only melanocytes stem cells. Later, the scientist was able to accurately track stem cells for the first time thus confirming that melanoma cells can arise from melanocyte stem cells. These cells abnormally migrate up and out of hair follicles to enter the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin.

The team also carefully shed the markers and pigments that went with the follicular origins. They wanted to know as to where the original cancer-causing event takes place. Therefore, they started eliminating signals one by one in the follicular environment to see if cancer still formed in their absences.

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Written by Sanghamitra Gogoi

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