Mechanisms of wound healing are clarified in zebrafish study

Mechanisms of wound healing are clarified in MBL zebrafish study
These are zebrafish (Danio rerio). Credit: Lukas Roth

A crucial component of wound healing in many animals, including humans, is the migration of nearby skin cells toward the center of the wound. These cells fill the wound in and help prevent infection while new skin cells regenerate.

How do these neighboring skin cells know which way to migrate? What directional cues are they receiving from the wound site? A new paper by Mark Messerli and David Graham of the MBL's Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering clarifies the role of signaling in this medically significant communication between skin cells.

Messerli and Graham conducted the study using zebrafish skin cells, which migrate much faster than . "Fish have to heal quickly," Messerli says. "They are surrounded by microbes and fungi in the water. They are constantly losing scales, which generates a wound. So the wound has to be healed in the epidermis first and then a new scale has to be built. Fish skin cells (keratinocytes) migrate five times faster at room temperature than mammalian cells do at 37 degrees C. So it is very easy to track and follow their migratory paths in a short period of time. "

The study brought fresh insights on the role of in inducing cellular organization and directed migration of skin cells. "When we started this study, we were looking at calcium signaling at the single-cell level, which is how it has been looked at for decades. How do single cells see injury?" Messerli says.

This is skin of an adult zebrafish. The distinctive labyrinth-like patterns seen on most of the cells are actin micro-ridges that are characteristic of superficial skin cells. SEM image. Credit: David Graham / Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole

To their surprise, by the end of the study they were looking at the calcium signals not just in single cells but in sheets of cells that surround . "The periphery of the wound itself appears to form a graded calcium signal that could direct migration and growth toward the center of the wound. This is what we are looking at now," Messerli says.

The team's approach was to use advanced microscopy to monitor cellular calcium signals and molecular analysis to identify membrane proteins that caused increases in cellular calcium migration. A variety of mechanically activated ion channels were identified in migratory . TRPV1, the ion channel that is also activated by hot peppers, was found to be necessary for .

More information: Graham DM, Huang L, Robinson KR, and Messerli MA (2013) Epidermal keratinocyte polarity and motility require Ca2+ influx through TRPV1. J Cell Sci. 126: 4602-4613.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Important wound-healing process discovered

Sep 26, 2013

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered an important process by which special immune cells in the skin help heal wounds. They found that these skin-resident immune cells function as "first responders" ...

Scientists discover 'switch' critical to wound healing

Mar 08, 2013

Patients with diseases such as diabetes suffer from painful wounds that take a long time to heal, making them more susceptible to infections that could even lead to amputations. A*STAR's discovery paves the way for therapeutics ...

Recommended for you

Radical vaccine design effective against herpes viruses

5 hours ago

Herpes simplex virus infections are an enormous global health problem and there is currently no viable vaccine. For nearly three decades, immunologists' efforts to develop a herpes vaccine have centered on ...

Popular antioxidant likely ineffective, study finds

14 hours ago

The popular dietary supplement ubiquinone, also known as Coenzyme Q10, is widely believed to function as an antioxidant, protecting cells against damage from free radicals. But a new study by scientists at McGill University ...

New findings on 'key players' in brain inflammation

14 hours ago

Inflammation is the immune system's natural reaction to an 'aggressor' in the body or an injury, but if the inflammatory response is too strong it becomes harmful. For example, inflammation in the brain occurs ...

Gut microbial mix relates to stages of blood sugar control

Mar 05, 2015

The composition of intestinal bacteria and other micro-organisms—called the gut microbiota—changes over time in unhealthy ways in black men who are prediabetic, a new study finds. The results will be presented Friday ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.