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Virtual skin model reveals secrets of skin aging
Date:6/26/2013

heal a wound or replenish stocks of other cells, a few of them don't go back into sleep mode, so the population slowly reduces," says Dr. Li. "This explains why older skin is slower to heal and in part why our skin changes as we age. By understanding this mechanism better, it might be possible to find ways to combat the effects of aging on our skin."

Computer modelling of skin biology is the latest step in the evolution of skin science. It allows scientists to project the activity of tissues like skin that are difficult to follow in live systems for extended periods. Currently, 3-dimensional cultures of engineered human skin are viable for only a few weeks and clinical studies in humans are only practical for a few months. With the development of in silico models scientists can predict for the first time what happens in skin as it ages year by year even as it ages decade by decade.

"These models permit exploration of hypotheses in very short periods of time, relative to the lab based bench work," says Dr. Upadhyay. "In silico modelling can significantly shorten R&D programs, and help focus subsequent lab or clinical work on the options with the greatest likelihood of succeeding. This is another reason why in silico models are an effective complement to more established research tools and methods."

The ability to follow virtual skin models over decades may be especially important to skin cancer research. Environmental damage caused by UV exposure or chronic wounding can cause sleeping cells to harbor the mutations which cause skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, a very aggressive type of skin cancer.

"The stem cells can harbor mutations throughout the years, but with no effect if they're still in sleep mode," explains Dr. Li. "However, when they start to divide to heal a wound for example, this could trigger the cancer. If it's possible to study this phenomenon for long periods of time it may be possible to find ways to preven
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Contact: Dayna Hochstein
dhochstein@spectrumscience.com
202-955-6222
Spectrum
Source:Eurekalert

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