Mammalian skin research represents the convergence of three complementary disciplines: cell biology, mouse genetics, and dermatology. The skin provides a paradigm for current research in cell adhesion, inflammation, and tissue stem cells. Here, I discuss recent insights into the cell biology of skin. Single-cell analysis has revealed that human epidermal stem cells are heterogeneous and differentiate in response to multiple extrinsic signals. Live-cell imaging, optogenetics, and cell ablation experiments show skin cells to be remarkably dynamic. High-throughput, genome-wide approaches have yielded unprecedented insights into the circuitry that controls epidermal stem cell fate. Last, integrative biological analysis of human skin disorders has revealed unexpected functions for elements of the skin that were previously considered purely structural.
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