University of California, San Diego biologists and their colleagues have discovered that the genetic system controlling the development and repair of insect cuticle—the outer layer of the body surface in insects—also controls these processes in mammalian skin, a finding that could lead to new insights into the healing of wounds and treatment of cancer.
Image shows activation of cuticle repair genes (green) surrounding wound (center) in a fruit fly larva (red)
Credit: Kimberly Mace, UCSF
The UCSD biologists’ study, published April 15 in the journal Science identifies a master gene called grainyhead that activates wound repair genes in the cells surrounding an injury in the cuticle of a fly embryo. These wound repair genes then regenerate the injured patch of cuticle.
In a separate study published in the same issue of Science, a team of researchers led by Stephen Jane at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne, Australia report that, although insect cuticle and the outer layer of mammal skin are very different chemically, the grainyhead gene is also essential for normal skin development and wound repair in mice.
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