Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) have observed cells altering the proteins holding them to the underlying connective tissue so they could move and repair a wound. "Wound healing is deficient as we get old and also among diabetics," says Jonathan Jones, director of WSU’s School of Molecular Biosciences and lead author of a paper on the phenomenon in the FASEB Journal. "That's why diabetics get skin ulcers. 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."
The researches observed the healing process through a high-resolution confocal microscope. Jones and his colleagues observed how the cells dissolve the proteins holding them in place and reuse it to move, shifting from side to side using their outer edges as “feet,” and seal the wound. The cells then divide to produce new skin. Jones describes this process as the cells “walking” to the wound site to repair it. “It's 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," says Jones. With this new knowledge, scientists can potentially manipulate cell movement and enhance it, expediting the healing process.—Isabela Palmieri