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J Cell Biol. 2008 Jan 28;180(2):273-84. doi: 10.1083/jcb.200708185. Epub 2008 Jan 21.

Skin stem cells: rising to the surface.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA.


The skin epidermis and its appendages provide a protective barrier that is impermeable to harmful microbes and also prevents dehydration. To perform their functions while being confronted with the physicochemical traumas of the environment, these tissues undergo continual rejuvenation through homeostasis, and, in addition, they must be primed to undergo wound repair in response to injury. The skin's elixir for maintaining tissue homeostasis, regenerating hair, and repairing the epidermis after injury is its stem cells, which reside in the adult hair follicle, sebaceous gland, and epidermis. Stem cells have the remarkable capacity to both self-perpetuate and also give rise to the differentiating cells that constitute one or more tissues. In recent years, scientists have begun to uncover the properties of skin stem cells and unravel the mysteries underlying their remarkable capacity to perform these feats. In this paper, I outline the basic lineages of the skin epithelia and review some of the major findings about mammalian skin epithelial stem cells that have emerged in the past five years.

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