Discovery of wound-healing genes in flies could mitigate human skin ailments

Apr 24, 2013
Drosophila
The drosophila is a type of fruit fly, a well-established genetic model. Credit: University of Missouri

Biologists at UC San Diego have identified eight genes never before suspected to play a role in wound healing that are called into action near the areas where wounds occur.

Their discovery, detailed this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, was made in the laboratory fruit fly Drosophila. But the biologists say many of the same genes that regulate biological processes in the hard , or cuticle, of Drosophila also control processes in . That makes them attractive candidates for new kinds of drugs or other compounds that could be used to treat skin ailments.

"Many of the key molecules and proteins involved in Drosophila wound healing are involved in mammalian wound healing," says Rachel Patterson, the first author who published the paper with Michelle Juarez and William McGinnis, a professor of biology and interim dean of the Division of Biological Sciences. "The genetics of Drosophila are not as complicated as mammalian genetics, so it's easier to attribute specific to individual genes."

By puncturing the cuticle and epidermis of fruit fly embryos in their experiments, the researchers examined 84 genes that are turned on and 78 that are turned off as the fly embryo responds to healing. From these 162 genes, they identified eight genes that are expressed at either very low levels or not at all in most cells during development, but are activated near the puncture wounds.

The researchers were surprised to discover that an immune response begins as soon as the flies' cuticles and epidermis were punctured, releasing antimicrobial peptides and other compounds that prepare the embryo should bacteria or fungi enter the site of injury. The key to their technique was the use of trypsin, a member of a family of enzymes called serine , which activates genes involved in wound healing. The next step is to see if these genes play a comparable role in humans.

"I think one amazing application of our studies may be to build a better bandage—containing compounds to promote would healing," said Juarez, a former postdoctoral fellow in McGinnis's lab who is now an assistant medical professor at the City College of New York.

"Perhaps our results can be translated to existing human therapies by incorporating specific, regulated series proteases and antimicrobial peptides at the sites of diabetic ulcers or skin grafts for more efficient wound healing," said Patterson. She said her team's results might also have application to treating chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis, severe dry skin and eczema in which levels of these enzymes are known to be abnormal.

Explore further: Scientists tap trees' evolutionary databanks to discover environment adaptation strategies

More information: The PLOS ONE paper can be accessed at: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0061773

Related Stories

Artificial skin system can heal wounds

Dec 20, 2007

A new study in Artificial Organs tested the effects of a wound dressing created with hair follicular cells. The findings reveal that skin substitutes using living hair cells can increase wound healing.

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

Keep dogs and cats safe during winter

Dec 27, 2014

(HealthDay)—Winter can be tough on dogs and cats, but there are a number of safe and effective ways you can help them get through the cold season, an expert says.

Scientists target mess from Christmas tree needles

Dec 26, 2014

The presents are unwrapped. The children's shrieks of delight are just a memory. Now it's time for another Yuletide tradition: cleaning up the needles that are falling off your Christmas tree.

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

Dec 26, 2014

Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

User comments : 0

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.