Key Takeaways

  • A molecule called Mi-2beta plays a leading role in maintaining the skin’s integrity by suppressing repair mechanisms until they are needed
  • Through a series of genetically programmed changes, this molecule is shut down when the skin is damaged, thereby allowing repair to occur
  • This finding opens new avenues to treating skin damage

This is the first time this particular aspect of skin repair has been revealed.

Katia Georgopoulos, PhD 
Cutaneous Biology Research Center
Massachusetts General Hospital 

BOSTON – Boston, MA – An essential step in skin healing has been revealed by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cutaneous Biology Research Center, opening up new avenues for developing skin injury treatments.  For the first time, the researchers describe how the molecule Mi-2beta normally represses skin cells’ responses to stress or injury.  When a damaging event occurs, this molecule  is removed from genes it’s been muting, thereby unleashing repair mechanisms.  As that repair process progresses, Mi-2beta returns to its place and the skin is restored to its pre-injury state.  

“This is the first time this particular aspect of skin repair has been revealed,” says Katia Georgopoulos, PhD, lead author of the study, an investigator in Cutaneous Biology Research Center at MGH and professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School (HMS).  The report was published this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.  

The skin protects the body from many potential insults, including physical injury, infectious germs or UV exposure. Keratinocytes, the main type of skin cell, respond to harmful events through a rapid and complex cascade of events. Certain genes will trigger specific processes, including immune responses and proliferation of keratinocytes to replace lost skin. It’s crucial that this response be very quick, otherwise ill effects such as infection can occur. But it’s also important that the process be stopped once it’s done its work.

The inappropriate activation of stress response genes is associated with several skin diseases and understanding how Mi-2beta is specifically released and restored may provide a new approach to managing inflammatory skin disease and recalcitrant wounds.

About the Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $1 billion and comprises more than 8,500 researchers working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In August 2019 the MGH was once again named #2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in its list of "America’s Best Hospitals."