Most of us view fat as little more than a nuisance and something we'd happily get rid of if we had the chance. However, new research suggests a previously untapped benefit of fat cells. According to the study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, it may soon be possible to use fat cells to help heal wounds without scar tissue.

The study, published in the online journal Science, found a way to manipulate skin cells into fat cells during the healing process. This would prevent scarring, and give new skin a more natural look. The most common cells found in healing wounds are myofibroblasts. Unfortunately, these cells do not have the ability to create hair follicles, which is one of the main characteristics that sets scar tissue apart from ordinary skin. Changing the myofibroblasts into fat cells called adipocytes, which already exist in the skin but are lost when wounds heal as scars, would address this problem.

Read: The Science Of Scars: Why Can't Our Skin Just Heal Itself Back To Normal?

"Essentially, we can manipulate wound healing so that it leads to skin regeneration rather than scarring," said George Cotsarelis, MD, the chair of the Department of Dermatology and the Milton Bixler Hartzell Professor of Dermatology at Penn, and the principal investigator of the project, in a recent statement. "The secret is to regenerate hair follicles first. After that, the fat will regenerate in response to the signals from those follicles."

Although the research is still in the early stages, the new study shows that these cells are able to be changed — something that was previously believed to be impossible. This opens the door to potential skin treatments for scarring, and could even potentially be used to address other serious health conditions such as HIV. What’s more, having the ability to regenerate fat cells could also make age-related wrinkles a thing of the past.

Source: Plikus MV, Guerrero-Juarez CF, Ito M, et al. Regeneration of fat cells from myofibroblasts during wound healing. Science . 2017

See Also:

The Heart's Self-Healing Process Inspires Scientists To Develop New Heart Attack Treatment

Scientists Explore Regeneration Process Of Skin And Hair In Search Of New Medicines