Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New mechanical insights into wound healing and scar tissue formation

Cellular “Popeyes” respond to stress and transform into muscle-bound wound-healers

New research published today in the Journal of Cell Biology illuminates the mechanical factors that play a critical role in the differentiation and function of fibroblasts, connective tissue cells that play a role in wound healing and scar tissue formation.

When we are injured, the body launches a complex rescue operation. Specialized cells called fibroblasts lurking just beneath the surface of the skin jump into action, enter the provisional wound matrix (the clot) and start secreting collagen to close the wound as fast as possible. This matrix is initially soft and loaded with growth factors. The fibroblasts “crawl” around the matrix, pulling and reorganizing the fibers. The matrix grows stiffer, and at a certain point, the fibroblasts stop migrating and, like Popeye, change into powerful contractile cells, anchoring themselves to the matrix and pulling the edges of the wound together.

The research reported today reveals for the first time that a mechanical mechanism is crucial for this switch from migrating to contractile cells. To make this change, the fibroblasts need to get at their “spinach” – the growth factor sitting in the matrix which, once liberated, stimulates the production of smooth-muscle proteins. Previously, researchers postulated that the fibroblasts did this by digesting the matrix. But EPFL scientist Boris Hinz, doctoral student Pierre-Jean Wipff and their colleagues have discovered that the cells unlock the growth factor via a purely mechanical process. With experiments using novel cell culture substrates of varying rigidity, they found that at a certain point, the matrix is sufficiently rigid that cell-exerted force allows the growth factor to pop out, like candy from a wrapper. Once the growth factor is available, the fibroblast expresses the contractile proteins, sticks more firmly to the matrix and starts to contract, pulling the matrix tightly together. In the process it liberates yet more growth factor that in turn stimulates other fibroblasts to become contractile. The mechanical nature of the switch ensures that the contraction only develops when the matrix is “ready.”

... more about:
»Fibroblast »Matrix »SCAR »contractile »function »mechanical

Although this process will heal a wound quickly, if left unchecked, it can also lead to a buildup of fibrous tissue. Following trauma to vital organs such as the heart, lung, liver and kidney, overzealous fibroblasts can continue to build fibrous strands, leading to scar tissue buildup that can impair the organ’s function. This condition, called “fibrosis”, can be fatal. Fibroblasts are also the culprits in problems caused by implants – if the implant is too smooth, it never becomes properly incorporated into the connective tissue. But if it is too rough, scar tissue develops around it and it won’t function properly. Occasionally, following plastic surgery, unsightly excessive scar tissue can develop in the skin as well. The process can also cause problems in mesenchymal stem cell cultures – if the culture’s substrate is stiff, considerable efforts have to be made to prevent the stem cells from turning prematurely into fibroblasts instead of the desired cell type. Controlling the rigidity of the cell culture is therefore critical.

This new understanding of the mechanical nature of fibroblast activation could be used to reduce or prevent fibrosis from occurring, says Hinz, without inhibiting the growth factor, which serves many other vital functions in the body. There are several possibilities: “You could interfere with the way the cells grab onto the growth factor complex, you could interfere with their attachment points on the matrix, and you could interfere with their contractile forces so that the matrix never gets stiff enough to liberate the growth factor,” he suggests.

Mary Parlange | alfa
Further information:

Further reports about: Fibroblast Matrix SCAR contractile function mechanical

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>