Production or differentiation of skin requires an immense amount of coordination at the cellular level, and glitches in the process can have disastrous consequences.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have identified a master regulator of this sophisticated tissue differentiation process.
"Disorders of epidermal differentiation, from skin cancer to eczema, will affect roughly one-half of Americans at some point in their lifetimes," said Paul Khavari.
"Understanding how this differentiation occurs has enormous implications, not just for the treatment of disease, but also for studies of tissue regeneration and even stem cell science," said Khavari.
Surprisingly, this coordinator extraordinaire is not a protein, which have traditionally been thought to be the primary movers and shakers in a cell.
Instead, it belongs to a relatively new, and increasingly influential, class of regulatory molecules called long, non-coding RNAs, or lncRNAs.
"This work revealed a new role for regulatory RNAs in gene activation