Dynamic cell transition states in mammalian epidermis


  • Prof Fiona Watt

    King's College London

Project summary

The epidermis forms the outer covering of the skin. It contains stem cells that divide to produce cells that differentiate into the specialised cells of the epidermal barrier, hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous glands. We want to understand how cells change from stem cells into specialised cells in the epidermis. Our current knowledge comes from studying groups of cells for days or weeks but we know that events occurring in minutes or hours in individual cells are also important.

We have developed new methods to study rapid changes in cell state which we will use to examine how the decision to stop being a stem cell is controlled in space and time and whether it depends on the type of differentiated cell being produced. We will determine whether different types of epidermal stem cell are interconvertible and whether they compete with one another to produce differentiated cells. We will also discover how differentiated cells can become stem cells again after the skin is wounded. Finally, we will test how abnormalities in cell state transitions contribute to epidermal inflammation and cancer.

This research will provide new insights into the role of dynamic cell state changes in healthy and diseased tissue.