AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: lin28a

Cuts, Scrapes, and Hair Loss a Thing of the Past!


Can adults repair their tissues as easily as children can? A study currently conducted at Boston Children’s hospital is attempting to find the answer to this question. Researchers have found that by activating a gene called Lin28a, they were able to “regrow hair and repair cartilage, bone, skin and other soft tissues in a mouse model.”  The scientists found that Lin28a works by enhancing metabolism in mitochondria—which, as we learned in class, are the “powerhouses” of the cells. This in turn helps generate the energy needed to stimulate and grow new tissues.
This discovery is a very exciting one for the field of medicine. The study’s senior investigator George Daley said, “[Previous] efforts to improve wound healing and tissue repair have mostly failed, but altering metabolism provides a new strategy which we hope will prove successful.” Scientists were even able to bypass Lin28a and directly activate the mitochondrial metabolism with a small compound and still enhance healing. Researcher Shyh-Chang says of this, “Since Lin28 itself is difficult to introduce into cells, the fact that we were able to activate mitochondrial metabolism pharmacologically gives us hope.” Since it is difficult for scientist to actually introduce Lin28a into a cell, it might be easier to simply synthetically create a substitute and introduce that. Either way, I think this is a very promising discovery! What other uses can you think of for this discovery?



Regular Cell Activity Could Help Heal Wounds


Photo taken by EMW

Photo taken by EMW

Biologists already know that flaws in metabolic processes in mitochondria (such as cell respiration) cause aging in many cells and tissues.  Now, they are exploring the converse situation.  Scientists from the Stem Cell Program and Boston Children’s Hospital are doing research to see if the trait that allows young animals to easily repair and regenerate their tissues can be produced in adult animals.  A protein called Lin28a (shown in image) is active in embryonic stem cells, and when scientists reactivated this protein (by reactivating the Lin28 gene) in older animals, the animals were able toregrow soft tissues (cartilage, bone, skin).  Lin28a promotes this regrowth partially by improving metabolism in mitochondria as it increases the production of enzymes involved in the making of energy.  As we learned in class, we need free energy to grow and create new cells. In this way, “Lin28a helps generate the energy needed to stimulate and grow new tissues”.  Essentially, the enhancing of the regular energy making process that the mitochondria perform could lead to advanced “regenerative treatments”.  (Click here for a graphical abstract of this study that helps to better understand the ideas behind the research.)

Additionally, experiments have been done that show that activity in the mitochondria can be enhanced without the stimulation of Lin28a.  This implies that a “healing cocktail” could be created pharmacologically.  I find it fascinating to see how cell processes, such as those that we learned about in class, can have such major implications for the future of regenerative medication.  Will they create new, more efficient drugs to help heal wounds?

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