Wound healing is an important application area in regenerative medicine. “We would like to find novel ways of healing disfiguring wounds arising from congenital conditions, accidents, and disease,” noted Enrique Amaya, Ph.D., The Healing Foundation professor of tissue regeneration at the University of Manchester.
“All organisms have quite remarkable wound-healing capacities that are present in the embryo but lost during adulthood.” To study how this capacity might be maintained during adulthood, Dr. Amaya is applying his long-time interest in using the embryo of the West African frog Xenopus tropicalis as a model organism.
Frog embryos have many advantages—all the organs can be visualized, allowing many events to be monitored; the embryos can be produced in large numbers; and they are accessible at all stages of their development. There are also many genetic similarities between frogs and humans—one of the main conclusions that was made following the recent sequencing of the X. tropicalis genome.
Embryos heal quickly and completely, with no scarring, while adult healing is slow, incomplete, and produces a scar. Using frog embryos, Dr. Amaya set out to discover if the difference arises because embryos do not mount an inflammatory response to injury, while adults do. He learned that embryos do, in fact, produce inflammatory cells on injury. “But we think these cells differ from those produced by adults.” As a result, they have been studying the marker proteins expressed by these cells.
In other research, Dr. Amaya’s team is looking at tissue regeneration in the tadpole where an injured tail will regenerate in a functional (if not perfect) fashion. Microarray studies show which genes are induced on injury and during the regeneration.