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  • Educator Sarthak Sinha
  • Animator Noel Wong, Alexandra Kogl, Mark Storer, Henry Chung
  • Artist Ieuan Protheroe
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The music track in this lesson is "Air Hockey Saloon" by Chris Zabriskie. It is Creative Commons.

In this lesson, we tried to impart biological insights into an organ that is capable of exhibiting remarkable regenerative capacity by being able to repair itself following a cut or a wound. Perhaps you’re left wondering: why is it that some animals can do a much better job than us at healing their wounds? Click here and visit the Howard Hughes Medical Institute BioInteractive site. Learn more about tissue regeneration in animals with the interactive. Why should this even be relevant to us?

Are you curious to learn more about what scientists are currently employing to better understand wound healing and how to improve it for humans? Let’s take a deeper look into a field known as regenerative medicine, a discipline of medical research that aims to study the possibility of replacing, regeneration and restoring body’s many functions.

To answer why some animals are able to exhibit what is thought to be complete regeneration, scientists are looking at the presence (and sometimes absence) of different chemicals in the wound microenvironment that might be guiding this process. Here’s an article about deer antler regeneration. A deer’s antler is thought to possess certain growth factors in the wounded skin, which signal the initiation of many processes such as nerve regrowth and even hair follicle formation following wounding.

A recent discovery in the field suggested that African spiny mouse regularly shed up to 60% of their skin, which is then regenerated seamlessly. Here’s a Scientific American Blog Post about the spiny mice! Researchers like Ashley Seifert performed skin autotomy, a procedure that removed all the skin from the animal, they found that the presence of certain molecules helped regain almost all of its original functions. Listen to the CBC Radio Interview of Ashley Seifert. Watch this video about his research. These animals are of extreme interest to scientists in the field as they reveal insights into aspects in which human wound healing is limited. They hope that by studying and translating these new understandings, they could one day improve the outcomes of wound healing especially in patients with sever burns resulting in a impeded wound healing. To read more about the African Spiny mouse, click here.

Finally, another highly anticipated approach in addressing wound healing is through the use of stem cells to make skin tissue that can be used for skin transplantations necessary for cases of extensive wounding. Stem cells are a special type of cells that can give rise to cells with specialized functions (such as a fibroblast cell). Watch this TED Ed lesson: “What are stem cells?” Learn more about their function. Although a lot of hurdles still need to be addressed, the hope is that stem cells can produce and possibly complement skin grafts that can integrate and regrow deeper layers of the skin. To learn more about the ways in which stem cells can be used for wound healing, visit the Stem Cell Network for the latest news.
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Lesson Creator
New York, NY
One of the challenges with injuries such as skin burns is that they require skin grafting from healthy parts of the patient’s skin. Despite this, the regeneration of the dermis (and therefore skin’s ability to function properly) remains limited. One potential strategy currently being studied is harvesting patient’s own stem cells for transplantations that might yield superior healing.
11/07/2014 • 
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