Master Wound Healing Gene Found  

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4/15/2005 4:03 pm

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Master Wound Healing Gene Found

Could lead to insights into tissue regeneration and cancer

A master gene that activates wound healing in insects and mammals has been discovered, a finding that could lead to new insights into tissue regeneration and cancer.

Kimberly Mace and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego found that the master gene, grainyhead, activates wound repair genes in cells surrounding injuries in the outer layer of fly embryos.

Meanwhile, researchers led by Stephen Jane at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia have found that while the outer layer of insects and mammalian skin are chemically different, grainyhead is also essential for normal skin development and wound repair in mice.

"One would envisage that maybe, not too far away, that after an operation that there's a cream or substance that's applied around the wound to stimulate the cells to migrate together to form a nice seamless connection whereby the wound heals without scar," Jane said in an interview.

Permeable skin

Mace and colleagues made their discovery by creating wounds in flies and analyzing DNA sequences to determine that grainyhead initiates repair. They also found that in flies lacking grainyhead, wounds failed to heal.

In their study, Jane and colleagues found that mice lacking grainyhead have more permeable skin than normal mice and have deficient wound repair.

Such a conserved genetic mechanism for wound repair is considered an important find. Little is known about such things as how wound repair is halted when injuries are healed. Nor is it well understood how cancer cells evade this stop program.

"The discovery that grainyhead-like factors are required for the response to injury opens up new avenues of research in the field of wound healing," says Mace. "It also opens new avenues for cancer research, since many cancer cells activate genes normally involved in wound healing in order to kick start processes such as cell division and cell migration."

Both studies are reported in the journal Science.

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