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Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2008;73:333-50. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2008.73.032. Epub 2008 Nov 6.

Building epithelial tissues from skin stem cells.

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


The skin epidermis and its appendages provide a protective barrier that guards against loss of fluids, physical trauma, and invasion by harmful microbes. To perform these functions while confronting the harsh environs of the outside world, our body surface undergoes constant rejuvenation through homeostasis. In addition, it must be primed to repair wounds in response to injury. The adult skin maintains epidermal homeostasis, hair regeneration, and wound repair through the use of its stem cells. What are the properties of skin stem cells, when do they become established during embryogenesis, and how are they able to build tissues with such remarkably distinct architectures? How do stem cells maintain tissue homeostasis and repair wounds and how do they regulate the delicate balance between proliferation and differentiation? What is the relationship between skin cancer and mutations that perturbs the regulation of stem cells? In the past 5 years, the field of skin stem cells has bloomed as we and others have been able to purify and dissect the molecular properties of these tiny reservoirs of goliath potential. We report here progress on these fronts, with emphasis on our laboratory's contributions to the fascinating world of skin stem cells.

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