"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Zebrafish share close skin similarities with humans, making them useful models for studying skin conditions corresponding to vitiligo and melanoma.

Melanocytes are a small subset of epidermal cells that play a serious role in protecting your skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure. They do that through synthesis. Melanin, which is pigment. Sent to other skin cells to guard them from harmful UV light. Causes an absence of functioning melanocytes. Wide range of skin conditionsIncluding skin cancer and vitiligo, an autoimmune condition by which the body attacks melanocytes and causes skin spots.

For nearly 20 years, I have been studying. Melanocytes and their role in disease. Difficulties growing human melanocytes in cell cultures have led researchers like me to make use of alternative models to review them.

My lab And others have pioneered using zebrafish to review melanocytes. Using this small freshwater fish as a model organism, my team and I recently discovered a brand new method. Regeneration of melanocytes. This process gives these cells the flexibleness to recuperate from injury and should apply to other forms of tissue as well.

What do zebrafish and folks have in common?

New students and non-scientists often ask me, “Why zebrafish?” There are several the explanation why zebrafish are good models for studying melanocytes.

Zebrafish have melanocytes. So in many ways For those among the many people. These cells develop within the fetus in the identical way as in humans, use the identical genetic program and make the identical melanin. Melanocyte dysfunction in zebrafish also results in the identical diseases and cancers present in humans.

Unlike melanocytes in mouse or human skin, zebrafish melanocytes are externally visible of their dark stripes and mottled scales. Researchers can place whole fish directly under a microscope and have a look at cells without the necessity for a biopsy.

Zebrafish melanocytes are present in their dark stripes and mottled scales.
Craig Music, CC BY-ND

Importantly, researchers can manipulate and perform experiments on zebrafish melanocytes in ways which are unethical or unimaginable to perform in humans. Unlike studies that use isolated melanocytes in a petri dish, these experiments might be done within the context of a complete animal, where we will monitor the encircling skin and other biological aspects that influence melanocyte behavior and performance. For their influence on method.

Diversification of melanocyte stem cells

In work under the leadership of Tyler FrantzA graduate student in my lab, our team focused our attention on the method by which latest melanocytes Regenerate after injury.

Melanocyte regeneration is significant for recovery from skin disorders corresponding to vitiligo. It can also be relevant to age-related conditions corresponding to White hairby which melanocyte stem cells either die or turn out to be inactive and now not produce the mature melanocytes that give hair its color.

Close-up of zebrafish melanocytes -- small dark circles in a band
Small dark circles in a single band of this image are zebrafish melanocytes, magnified 100-fold.
Craig Music, CC BY-ND

To study melanocyte regeneration, we removed these cells from zebrafish and followed their regrowth process. Because melanocyte stem cells are externally visible in zebrafish, we tracked these cells in real time to find out how they divided and matured. Additionally, we measured which genes were expressed in individual melanocyte stem cells and their progeny during regeneration.

We found that dying melanocytes trigger this regeneration process by sending signals to activate melanocyte stem cells – cells that can provide rise to latest melanocytes. Intriguingly, we identified two forms of stem cells that every took a distinct path to generate latest melanocytes. One kind of stem cell directly transforms into melanin-producing melanocytes. Another kind of stem cell divides to form two forms of daughter cells. One type was latest melanocytes, and the opposite type was latest stem cells ready to reply to future injury.

Researchers know that a single stem cell can do that. Making multiple types of cells The tissue must regenerate. Our zebrafish studies show that many various stem cells within the skin, and possibly other tissues, can mix to regenerate a particular cell type after injury. The induction of multiple stem cells potentially enables regeneration to readily adapt to a wide range of injuries.

From fish to people

Our findings from zebrafish are likely relevant to human skin. When we examined cells taken from Fluid inside a blister In human skin, we found cells that looked remarkably much like zebrafish melanocyte stem cells. We are planning to see if these human cells are activated to form latest melanocytes in skin regeneration, confirming their identity as melanocyte stem cells.

Ultimately, we envision using these findings to develop treatments that reactivate melanocyte stem cells, which can help reverse skin pigmentation in vitiligo and other diseases. Such treatments can even help prevent age-related pigment loss in hair and skin.

The unique characteristics of zebrafish have allowed us to uncover a brand new mode of cellular regeneration. Because of the cross-species similarities, we expect that these and lots of other findings from research using zebrafish could also be applicable to human biology.