Melanocytes are cells that produce melanin, the pigment present in our skin, eyes, and hair. iPS-derived melanocytes are used in models of skin disease, drug toxicity assays, skin bioprinting and in cell therapy R&D. Previously, we looked at the role of melanin and what happens when melanin production is dysfunctional and this left us with some interesting questions:
- Why do we have melanocytes in many parts of the body that are not exposed to the sun including the brain, lungs and heart?
- Why is hearing affected in melanocyte-deficient conditions like Waardenburg Syndrome?
These questions raise two deeper scientific questions:
- Are melanocytes more than just pigment-producing cells?
- Is melanin more than a pigment?
Answering these questions could affect how we diagnose and treat many types of diseases where melanocytes are dysfunctional, including albinism and skin cancer, but also could make us wonder if these cells play a role in the diseases of the other organs and tissues where they can be found – they could be important in a wide range of diseases from neurological disorders to genetic disorders.
Let’s dive into what the research tells us! (more…)Continue Reading...
Not a week goes by that I don’t see an article in my newsfeed about some new possible treatment to cure something or other.
When you start looking into the “New Treatment Can Cure Most Forms of Cancer!” usually it’s some new therapeutic that has shown promise in cells or perhaps rats and you feel somewhat cheated!
One of the most well-known cure-alls has become a household topic of interest (and in some cases contention): stem cells. Stem cells for cancer. Stem cells for aging. Stem cells to regrow limbs. Stem cells for diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury.
The list of uses for stem cells goes on!
There are so many different types of stem cells being used in research. To better understand the research and stem cells in general, it’s important to understand what the difference between each type of stem cell is.
Here is a quick guide to the different types of stem cells you should know about. (more…)Continue Reading...
Melanocytes are melanin-producing cells found mainly in the lowest part of the top layer of your skin or to put it in science-speak: the stratum basale of your epidermis (see our article on the morphology of the skin). Melanin is a pigment, best known and primarily responsible for giving our skin colour (light, medium, dark skin tones). There are two types of melanocytes: differentiated melanocytes and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The former are found in various parts of the body including the skin whereas the latter as present only as a single layer of cells lying behind the retina. While differentiated melanocytes originate from embryonic neural crest cells in the growing embryo, RPE develop in situ from the optic cup of the brain.
While best known as loyal and hard-working residents of our skin, differentiated melanocytes are found in all sorts of places around the body. From parts of the eye and hair follicles, to the inner ear, to the two innermost layers of the meninges in the brain (the leptomeninges), to the valves and septa of the heart, the lungs and even in adipose tissue. Why pigment-producing cells would be found so ubiquitously is a subject up for much debate. We’ll go further into this in the upcoming articles.
Here, we’ll look at the role melanocytes and melanin play in the body particularly their role in various skin lesions, reactions, diseases and conditions. (more…)Continue Reading...