Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


The Fertility Show


 

Stem cells could help amputated fingertips regrow

17 June 2013

By Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Appeared in BioNews 709

Stem cells in the nail bed may be the key to regenerating amputated fingertips, if a study on mice is anything to go by.

'Everyone knows that fingernails keep growing, but no one really knows why', said lead author Dr Mayumi Ito, assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. Her study is the first to suggest that mammals may be able to regrow parts of their fingers thanks to pathways similar to those allowing salamanders to regrow entire limbs.

The researchers used cell-labelling techniques on genetically manipulated mice and identified a family of self-renewing stem cells in the nail bed which are responsible for nail growth. The stem cells are able to attract nerves to the area, a process that triggers further tissue regeneration through a protein called FGF2.

In one experiment a partially amputated mouse toe tip regrew after chemical stimulation of the nail stem cells.

The researchers also identified that the 'Wnt' signalling network – a molecular pathway responsible for nail and tissue growth in mammals and for limb regrowth in salamanders - was involved. 'I was amazed by the similarities', says Dr Ito. 'It suggests that we partly retain the regeneration mechanisms that operate in amphibians'.

'This is encouraging because the similarities give us hope that we will be able to induce human regeneration in the not-too-distant future', Dr Ken Muneoka, a molecular biologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, who was not involved in the study, told Nature News.

However, Dr Ashley Seifert, a regeneration biologist at the University of Kentucky, reminded the same publication that the parallels between mammal and salamander regeneration pathways are limited. Amphibians are able to regenerate a limb at any level of amputation and have no nail beds. Mammals, says Dr Seifert 'independently evolved the ability to regenerate digit tips through a mechanism dependent on the nail organ'.

Furthermore, in Dr Ito's experiments simply activating the Wnt pathway where there was too little tissue immediately below the nail bed (the nail epithelium) meant that the toe tip did not regrow.

'If the mechanism that they outlined was important', Dr Seifert suggested to Nature News, 'one would expect that the result of this experiment would be at least a partial stimulation of regeneration'.

Dr Ito's team plan to investigate the molecular mechanisms linking the Wnt signalling pathway to nail stem cells and bone and nail regrowth in future experiments.

Their current study was published in Nature.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
New York University Langone Medical Center (press release) | 12 June 2013
 
Nature News | 12 June 2013
 
New Scientist | 12 June 2013
 
Fox News | 12 June 2013
 
Nature | 12 June 2013
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

22 July 2013 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Human stem cells have been used to create networks of blood vessels in mice that functioned for nine months...
08 July 2013 - by James Brooks 
Stem cells generated from adult cells have been used to grow tiny 'liver buds' which were then successfully transplanted into mice...
28 June 2013 - by Rhys Baker 
A Japanese Health Ministry panel has approved the first use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) in human trials...

03 June 2013 - by Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi 
The first human trials of synthetic blood look set to go ahead in the UK...
07 May 2013 - by David O'Rourke 
A toddler has become the youngest person to receive a bioengineered organ, receiving a life-saving windpipe transplant made from her own stem cells...
29 April 2013 - by Siobhan Chan 
Stem cell therapy has improved memory and learning in brain-damaged mice, according to a study in Nature Biotechnology...
18 March 2013 - by Dr Rosie Gilchrist 
For the first time, teeth have been grown from human gum cells, in combination with stem cells from mouse embryos...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Jacques Cohen

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Andy Greenfield

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation