Fingernail research could drive limb regeneration

Fingernail research could drive limb regeneration

Researchers have discovered the biological chain of events that enable mammals to regenerate a lost fingertip. The finding has huge potential and could drive the development of future therapies to regenerate lost limbs.

When a fingertip is lost, humans and other mammals are able to completely regenerate it. In fact, it only takes a couple of months before an amputated fingertip fully regenerates itself. The phenomenon has intrigued scientists for a long time.

The study was published in the journal Nature and the biochemical events that occur following a fingertip amputation.

Lead author Mayumi Ito, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, said that although everyone knows fingernails keep growing, no one understands why.

By observing how nails are able to grow researchers are a step closer to being able to grow full limbs

The link between nail growth and the regenerative ability of the bone and tissue under the nail was poorly understood until now.

The team, led by Dr. Ito, identified a group of stem cells found in the nail matrix - the formative layer of cells at the base of the fingernail or toenail - that promote the restoration of an amputated nail.

These stem cells depend on proteins that belong to the "Wnt signaling network", the proteins also play an important role in tissue and hair regeneration. Dr. Ito said: "When we blocked the Wnt-signaling pathway in mice with amputated fingertips, the nail and bone did not grow back as they normally would."

By manipulating the pathway the researchers were able to stimulate bone and tissue regeneration just beyond the fingertip. Dr. Ito noted that "amputations of this magnitude ordinarily do not grow back."

Fingertip regeneration completely depends on Wnt signaling and the findings of this study could significantly help speed up therapies for regenerating limbs.

One out of every 200 Americans is an amputee, which translates into over 1.7 million people - this number is expected to increase.

The researchers plan to conduct further studies to find the molecular mechanisms that control the Wnt signaling pathway.

What are stem cells? How can they be used for medical benefit?

Recently a team of scientists at Tulane University found that the application of high levels of oxygen to a damaged bone significantly helps it's regrowth - study results that hold promise for injured soldiers and other accident victims.

In addition, The European Nanobiocom project, led by INASMET-Tecnalia is coming up with a substitute for bone tissue that can put the bone right and regenerate it in such a way that it carries out similar functions as in its natural state.

Hope for Human Limb Regeneration Could Lie in Fingernails (Video Medical And Professional 2020).

Section Issues On Medicine: Medical practice