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Unexpected helpers in wound healing
Cut in the finger or open the knee: Every person keeps getting smaller wounds in the course of their life. Often it is enough to simply wait until everything has healed. Scientists from Switzerland have now shown how nerve cells help the skin to heal wounds.
Help with wound healing
After minor injuries you are sometimes advised to try salt, because salt water accelerates wound healing. Others rather recommend treating wounds with fresh garlic. And with superficial, slightly oozing and little bleeding wounds, zinc can contribute to better healing. In the case of chronic wounds, such home remedies usually do nothing. However, researchers from Switzerland have now found out how nerve cells help the skin to heal wounds. They hope that the new findings can help treat chronic wounds effectively in the future.
Skin wound must be closed quickly
A skin wound must be closed quickly. That is why the blood coagulates shortly after an injury and a “wound plug” forms, reports the University of Zurich (UZH) in a message.
However, in order to heal the injury permanently, the affected skin layers have to be regenerated. This requires a complex, only partially understood interplay between different cell types in our skin.
Nerve cells play a central role here, as a team led by Lukas Sommer, professor at the Anatomical Institute of the University of Zurich, and the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich) have now been able to show.
His research group is part of "Skintegrity", a flagship project of university medicine in Zurich.
Glial cells change their identity
There has long been evidence that a tissue is innervated for optimal healing, that is, it must be provided with nerve pathways. Why this is so was unclear.
Using an animal model, the researchers at “Skintegrity” discovered that fine nerve tracts change drastically if they are injured when the skin is wounded: cells along the injured nerve tract, known as glial cells, change their original identity and are reprogrammed into “repair cells”.
They lose contact with the nerve pathways and swarm out into the wound bed. "There they pour out a cocktail of various factors that support wound healing," explains Lukas Sommer.
With genetic experiments, he was able to demonstrate that the repair cells of the nerves are important, among other things, for closing the wound by promoting the necessary remodeling of the dermis.
The results of their investigations were recently published in the "Nature Communications" magazine.
Heal chronic wounds
In old age or in people with diabetes, for example, wounds can heal very poorly. Such chronic wounds usually cause severe complaints and can only be treated insufficiently.
The researchers at “Skintegrity” have also discovered reprogrammed nerve cells in human skin wounds.
"Now, together with clinicians from the University Hospital Zurich, we want to better characterize the wound healing factors that are released by nerve cells," explains Sommer.
"Perhaps one day this could be used to treat chronic wounds effectively." (Ad)