WELLINGTON, March 12 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand scientists say they have identified human skin cells with stem cell properties that could lead the way to a range of new treatment for skin diseases and unhealed wounds.
The researchers at Auckland's Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery said Wednesday they had found mesenchymal progenitor cells in the dermis, the middle layer of skin, that could turn themselves into fat cells.
This indicated that could probably become other types of cells that repair and regenerate tissue, like similar stem cells found in fat and bone marrow.
"Nobody has identified these cells before, so this opens the door to advances in both skin healing and skin diseases," researcher Professor Rod Dunbar said in a statement.
"Every time you find new cells with stem cell-like properties, you know you're onto something that could have major implications. "
The team hoped its research, which started in 2011, could lead to treatments for conditions that severely thicken the skin such as keloid scarring, in which tough, irregularly-shaped scars grow and spread.
They also suspected loss of these MPC cells could prevent proper healing, when treatments such as radiation for cancer had damaged the skin.