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Papers of the Week

2020 Jan

Exp Dermatol



Schwann cells as underestimated, major players in human skin physiology and pathology.


Bray ER, Chéret J, Yosipovitch G, Paus R
Exp Dermatol. 2020 Jan; 29(1):93-101.
PMID: 31733169.


Schwann cells (SCs) have long been recognized for their ability to support repair and promote axon regeneration following injury to the peripheral nervous system. In response to nerve injury they rapidly dedifferentiate into a precursor-like state, secrete an array of inflammatory mediators and growth-factors, proliferate, undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal-like transformation to facilitate migration, phagocytose cellular debris, and remodel the extracellular environment to promote regeneration of axons through the site of injury. However, even though a cutaneous role for SCs is becoming increasingly recognized, we argue in this Viewpoint essay that the likely complex functions of SCs in skin physiology and pathology beyond skin sensation and nerve repair deserves more attention and systemic research than they have received so far. For example, SCs promote wound healing, disseminate infection in leprosy, support the growth of neurofibromas/schwannomas, and facilitate/accelerate the growth and invasion of melanoma. Despite representing a major dermal cell population, comparatively little is still known about the role of SCs in other dermatoses. To quintessentially illustrate the opportunities that promise to arise from a new skin research focus on SCs, we focus on two dermatoses that are not traditionally associated with SCs, i.e. psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (AD), since both show distinct SC changes along with continuous nerve fiber degeneration and regeneration, and an impact of denervation on skin lesions. Specifically, we critically discuss the hypothesis that repeated activation of the SC repair program occurs in and contributes to psoriasis and AD and delineate experimental approaches how to probe this clinically relevant hypothesis.