Study Clarifies Skin Repair MechanismFeatured News, Health Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
A team of researchers from the UK and Japan has discovered the chemical which calls stem cells from bone marrow into action to the site of a wound.
The details on the finding of the distress signal, called HMGB1, have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As for the utility of the study, its authors consider that the chemical can be used to put “a megaphone in the system” in order to improve the treatment of injuries such as burns and leg ulcers. Moreover, the research has shed a new light into this matter seeing that, prior to the study, bone marrow was thought to contribute to damaged skin repair, but the exact manner in which the process took place was unclear.
The scientists at Osaka University and King’s College London managed to track and monitor the activity of bone marrow cells while moving around the body by giving the laboratory mice cells which glowed green. The next step implied wounding the mice so that they could later be given skin grafts. A part of the injured rodents didn’t receive grafts, this group presenting a low number of stem cells travelling to the wound. On the other hand, those with the grafts had numerous such cells travelling to the injury.
As professor John McGrath from King’s College London explained, grafted skin tissue doesn’t have blood vessels and, consequently, has no oxygen. This constitutes the proper environment for the release of HMGB1, which he also called a ‘Save Our Skin signal’. This kind of signal manifests in stem cells moving to the wound. Commenting on the benefits of the discovery, Mr McGrath affirmed: “It could have a very big impact on regenerative medicine for treating people with rare genetic illnesses and more common problems such as burns and ulcers. It could potentially revolutionise the management of wound healing.”
With researchers in Osaka already working on a drug formula to mimic HMGB1, the animal testing phase is expected to begin by the end of the year, with human clinical trials shortly afterwards.
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