Discovery of Wound-Healing Genes in Flies Could Mitigate Human Skin Ailments
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 exoskeleton, or cuticle, of Drosophila also control processes in human skin. That makes them attractive candidates for new kinds of wound-healing 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 biological functions 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.