Mar 27, 2015 04:30 PM EDT
Medical research is constantly advancing. There are plenty of struggles but overall things look pretty hopeful. Medical researchers are constantlydeveloping new ways to fight infections, cancer, treat neurological conditions and even alleviate genetic disorders. But one area with slightly less focus is injuries. In some sense major initiatives like stem cell therapy and tissue engineering to replace organs get more attention.
While this is all fantastic, what about smaller or more common injuries like cuts and burns? Stem cells could certainly be a potential way to accelerate healing. However, those techniques are a long way off and even if they were approved, wouldn't necessarily be the most convenient. To heal a common injury with stem cells, a doctor would need a fast and efficient way to produce stem cells from a patient's own cells and then apply them to the injury. Otherwise each person would need to have a certain amount of stem cells in storage for immediate use.
Some scientists from the Albert Einstein College of medicine may have a simpler solution. (via EurekaAlert) They identified an enzyme that appeared to inhibit the migration of skin cells when attempting to heal a wound. The enzyme is called FL2, and belongs to a family of proteins that serve a wide range of functions in different cells.
They hypothesized that inhibiting FL2 would increase natural regeneration, and after some experiments on human cells in culture they moved to mice. The main mechanism they used was silencing RNA. To review, proteins are produced when ribosomes translates messenger RNA, and messenger RNA is transcribed from the genome. Silencing RNA is complementary to messenger RNA and blocks its translation into a protein.
Once they had RNA that word blocking the production of FL2, they next needed to get it into cells. Just a random string of RNA would quickly be degraded by the cell. To overcome this they encapsulated their RNA in tiny gel nanoparticles. Such nanoparticles have previously been used to deliver biomolecules into cells.
Topically applying these nanoparticles more than doubled the rate at which both burns and incisions closed. Not only was regeneration faster, but silencing this enzyme seemed to have no adverse effect on the quality of the regeneration. Normal collagen structure and hair follicles developed from the enhanced healing. Next will be testing this kind of treatment on pigs, which the researchers hope to do within months. Ultimately this could lead to a highly effective method for enhancing regeneration from everyday injuries.
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