The capacity of the skin to expand by mechanical stretching has been used for decades in plastic and reconstructive surgery to generate an excess of skin that can be used to repair birth defects, damaged tissues, and breast reconstruction after mastectomy. The cellular and molecular mechanisms by which skin respond to mechanical stretching remain unknown.
Researchers lead by Pr. Cédric Blanpain – WELBIO investigator, director of the Laboratory of Stem Cells and Cancer, Faculty of Medicine, Université libre de Bruxelles -, in collaboration with Pr. Benjamin D. Simons – University of Cambridge – demonstrated that stretching induces skin expansion by inducing self-renewal of epidermal stem cells and uncovered the signalling pathways responsible for stretching induced stem cell activation and renewal at the single cell resolution.