Melanocytes: a Window into the Nervous System

Mind begins as skin... and it remains skin-like in its dichotomous distinctions of self and other, me and not-me.  Melanocytes are histological and historical cousins of neurons.  Thus, Neural Tribe is Skin Tribe.

"Melanocytes are pigment-producing cells that originate from the dorsal portions of the closing neural tube in vertebrate embryos. Similar to neurons, they are derived from pluripotent neural crest cells that differentiate into numerous cell lineages. The development of melanocytes and neurons, as well as their differentiated function, within the mature tissue, is influenced by signaling molecules produced by neighboring cells. The same signaling molecules that have a role in the central and peripheral nervous tissue also have a role in cutaneous melanocytes. These include Wnt, bone morphogenetic proteins, endothelins, steel factor, hepatocyte growth factor, fibroblast growth factors, and neurotrophins. Signaling pathways including PKC- and p53/p73-dependent pathways are also common to melanocytes and neurons. The similarity between melanocytes and neurons suggests that melanocytes could provide a valuable model for studies of diseases that affect the nervous system, as well as for development of potential therapies for these diseases."

Source: Hee-Young Park,  and Mina YaarJournal of Investigative Dermatology 132, 835-845 (March 2012)