New type of stem cell helps your fingers regenerate
EVERY one of us has a superpower. Shave off the very tip of your finger or toe and it should grow back. Now we know how.
Like amphibians, humans can regenerate skin and bone, but unfortunately our powers of regeneration are limited to the ends of our fingers. It’s a trick we share with mice, so to find out how we do it, Mayumi Ito at New York University and her colleagues took a closer look at mouse digits.
Using a cell-labelling technique, the team identified a previously unknown population of stem cells at the base of each toenail. Tests showed that these “nail stem cells” help with ordinary nail growth, but can also rebuild the entire digit tip after amputation.
We already know that the skin plays a pivotal role in triggering amphibian limb regrowth. The new results suggest the same is true of our ability to regrow fingertips (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature12214).
“We at least partly retain the mechanisms that operate limb regeneration in amphibians,” says Ito. “Knowing more about how nail epidermal cells induce digit-tip regeneration may provide direct clues to extend our ability for regeneration.”
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