Cut yourself and the cells in your skin react to heal over the wound. Skin cells called keratinocytes divide to replicate themselves, and migrate towards the cut to close the gap. Keratinocytes bear proteins called Gαq and Gα11 that help pass on many different signals from outside the cell. Scientists have now found that if they’re missing then cells migrate more slowly, so wounds take longer to heal. However, Gαq and Gα11 do a similar job, and can replace each other if one is missing. The cytoskeleton – the cells’ structural support – normally reorganises itself when cells migrate (bottom, in cells missing just Gα11), but in cells lacking both proteins (top) the signal to migrate (increasing right to left) just makes the cytoskeleton more disorganised. This shows that Gαq and Gα11 may help cause the changes in cells that help them reach and heal wounds successfully.
Written by Esther Redhouse White
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