Embryologists of St. Petersburg State University, in the course of studying the mechanism of tissue repair in marine worms, found in them a substance that can be useful for humans, in particular used in medicine for faster wound healing, tissue regeneration.
The results obtained by scientists during the study were published in the scientific journal devoted to genetics and genomics – Genes. who
Who is the green nereis and why did he interest scientists
The object of attention of Russian scientists was the green nereis, a large marine worm that lives in the waters of the White Sea. Representatives of this family are among the largest among annelid worms. They can reach up to half a meter in length, and their life expectancy is from 3 to 7 years. But embryologists were interested in these marine inhabitants with their other characteristics – a unique ability to regenerate damaged tissues.
The exceptional regeneration abilities of annelids have been known to biologists for a long time. In particular, representatives of the nereis family are able to restore several lost segments of the back of the body in just a week, and the wound in the place of the amputated part is covered with epithelium already on the first day. However, the mechanism that allows worms to restore lost parts has not yet been clearly and in detail described.
What scientists have discovered
For the study, embryologists took several individuals of nereis, artificially fertilized them and the offspring of worms obtained in this way, which was grown in laboratory conditions, became the object of scientific analysis.
During the study, experts found a special type of proteins in the bodies of green nereis – fibroblastic growth factors (FGF). When there is a need to repair damaged tissues, the body begins to produce FGF. This function is assigned to the cells of the epidermis, nervous tissue, fibroblasts and macrophages. Under the influence of these same proteins, cells in the body begin to divide more intensively. The synthesis of tropocollagen is also activated – a substance that is a precursor of collagen, an intercellular matrix that serves as a kind of framework for connective tissues. In addition, under the influence of fibroblastic growth factor, the basic substance of connective tissue is formed, blood vessels and nerve cells begin to grow intensively.
To confirm their guess that FGF proteins are the secret to the rapid regeneration of marine worms, scientists found areas of FGF activity in the organisms of experimental nereis and blocked them. As a result, the regeneration processes on the worms’ bodies stopped. The suppression of protein activity stopped the process of cell division at the site of tissue damage and the restoration of the lost segment. Worms from the control group, in which FGF was not inhibited, already 4 hours after the amputation of the tail demonstrated the growth of new cells, and over the next 6 days they actively recovered nerves and muscle tissue.
How is this discovery useful for medicine
The discovery of St. Petersburg scientists is of significant importance not only for biology, as it allows us to better understand the specifics of regeneration processes in marine worms, but can also serve as a serious impetus to the development of medicine. Moreover, FGF group proteins are also present in human organisms, and there is no fundamental difference between these compounds in the bodies of invertebrates and mammals. However, scientists do not yet know why, despite the presence of this protein in the human body, people are deprived of the ability to regenerate damaged tissues so quickly, which is observed in marine worms. Nevertheless, scientists suggest that the use of drugs based on FGF proteins may be useful for faster healing of wounds on the human body.