Background: Scar formation, which may be caused by myofibroblast aggregations, is the greatest challenge during skin wound healing in the clinical setting. Studies have indicated that epidermal stem cells (EPSC) improve wound healing and reduce scar formation.
Methods: We investigated the therapeutic effects of EPSC-derived exosomes (EPSC-Exos) on skin wound healing in a skin-defect rat model. We also examined the roles of EPSC-Exos-specific microRNAs in inhibiting the differentiation of human dermal fibroblasts (HDF) into myofibroblasts.
Results: We found that EPSC-Exos increased the wound healing rate and reduced scar formation in rats. Also, EPSC-Exos improved the regeneration levels of skin appendages, nerves and vessels, as well as the natural distribution of collagen. Furthermore, we found these functions may be achieved by inhibiting the activity of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) and its downstream genes. The results showed that some specific microRNAs, including miR-16, let-7a, miR-425-5p and miR-142-3p, were enriched in EPSC-Exos. EPSC-Exos-specific microRNAs, especially miR-425-5p and miR-142-3p, played vital roles in inhibiting myofibroblast differentiation via reducing the TGF-β1 expression in dermal fibroblasts.
Conclusion: We found a novel function of EPSC-Exos-specific microRNAs, suggesting that EPSC-Exos might represent a strategy to prevent scar formation during wound healing in the clinical setting.
Keywords: Epidermal stem cells; Exosome; MicroRNA; Myofibroblast; Transforming growth factor-β1.