Even the most minor cut leaves a scar, a part of the process of healing, but to many with substantial ones, scars can often make people feel self-conscious and possibly embarrassed.
Formed after a cut or laceration, a scar represents the healed tissue of the skin forming back together and while cosmetic surgery may exist to possibly remove them they are otherwise indelible. But researchers are now looking into ways to see if healing can happen without the mark of a scar remaining.
Researchers from the University of Florida are looking into a possible way to have the skin heal, but in a way that does not result in the formation of scars. For this, researchers are looking into a particular type of mouse that has very brittle skin and breaks off, for example if attacked by a predator. But instead of leaving a scar, the new skin that forms appears fresh and even grows hair.
The researchers, who have published their work in the journal, Nature, studied the African spiny mouse, which, in certain cases, lost around 60 percent of the skin from their backs. But instead of having scars, it was seen that the skin rapidly healed and regrew hair unlike in other mammals.
But it wasn’t just lost skin that the mice were able to regrow, as it was seen that in cases where their ears had been punctured, they were able to regrow hair follicles, sweat glands and cartilage. While this is seen in reptiles, such as salamanders, which can regrow entire limbs, regeneration is not as common in mammals, the African spiny mouse shows perhaps the most.
Commenting, Dr. Ashley Seifert from the University of Florida said, "This study shows that mammals as a group may in fact have higher regenerative abilities than they are given credit for."
When wounded, the spiny mouse is seen to create a regeneration hub or blastema around the wound. This bundle of stem cells then goes to work, re-growing the wounded area and not leaving scars of any kind. The blastema is very rare, as it does not form in humans or other mammals, but the spiny mouse and reptiles are seen to develop and sustain it, leading to the regrowth of wounded areas. The key difference that the researchers noted was that in laying extracellular matrices basically webs of proteins, the mice did so far slower than humans and other mammals, allowing for the blastema to form.
Dr. Seifret adds, “These mice appear to deposit extracellular matrix into their wounds at a slower rate than mice, pigs or humans. Although many scientists are trying to speed up the healing process, our studies on spiny mice and salamanders show that slowing things down is the path towards regeneration.”