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

Eric R. Bray, Jérémy Chéret, Gil Yosipovitch, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


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 deserve 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, that is, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (AD), since both show distinct SC changes along with continuous nerve fibre degeneration and regeneration, and an impact of denervation on skin lesions. Specifically, we critically discuss the hypothesis that repeated activation of the SC repair programme occurs in and contributes to psoriasis and AD and delineate experimental approaches how to probe this clinically relevant hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental dermatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Pruritus
  • atopic dermatitis
  • glia
  • inflammation
  • psoriasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology


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