Researchers document ‘walking’ skin cells that repair wounds

Researchers at Washington State University have documented how skin cells can alter the proteins holding them in place and move to repair a wound.

“They walk,” Jonathan Jones, director of the Washington State University (WSU) School of Molecular Biosciences and lead author of the study, said of the cells in a WSU press release. Study results are published in the FASEB Journal.

According to the release, normal skin cells are typically held in place by contact with surrounding cells and proteins that bind them to the underlying connective tissue. Researchers have now discovered how cells in the epidermis dissolve the glue that binds them and reuse some of the proteins to move to seal a wound site. The cells also grow more cells to form new, healed skin.

Using a high-resolution confocal microscope that gave them a detailed look at the process, researchers could watch individual cells shift side-to-side to use their outer edges as “feet.” A bed of fluorescent beads let the scientists calculate the displacement forces as each cell moved.

“It is using its internal muscle-related proteins to be able to generate these forces to allow the cell to use its feet and move along in step-wise fashion,” Jones said.

According to Jones, wound healing becomes deficient among diabetics and as people age.

“If we could work out a way to enhance the motility of these skin cells, we could promote healing in patients that have problems with wound closure and ulceration of the skin,” he said.



Jones J. FASEB J. 2016;doi:10.1096/fj.201500160R.

Disclosure: Jones reports no relevant financial disclosures.



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