Media Detail

17.01.2020

Yuval Rinkevich on Deutschlandfunk

Dr. Yuval Rinkevich reported at the 8th of January 2020 on the programe “Forschung aktuell” on Deutschlandfunk about new findings on wound healing.

Dr. Yuval Rinkevich; source: ILBD/CPC, Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen

The following article is the translation of the report on Deutschlandfunk

New insights into wound healing and scarring

The human body is often extremely fast at closing wounds. However, the skin does not regenerate faultlessly and scars form. There is new knowledge about how these scars are formed. The aim of research is to allow wounds to heal without scarring.

Whether you cut your finger with a knife or fell on a gravel road with your bike as a child - scars often remind us of such events for a lifetime. But this is by no means the case with all living things, explains Yuval Rinkevich from the Helmholtz Centre in Munich:

"Lower vertebrates and invertebrates do not form scars. They have the ability to regenerate their tissue without scarring. But if you go further up the family tree and look at more complex organisms, you can see how scars appear for the first time. Mammals, and especially humans, form scars with almost every injury."

Previous assumptions about healing are wrong

Scars are formed thanks to special cells called myofibroblasts. Until now, it was thought that myofibroblasts were part of the human skin. When the skin is injured, these cells migrate towards the wound and produce connective tissue that covers the wound. Sounds simple and logical. But it's not true, as Yuval Rinkevich found out:

"First of all, these cells do not come from the skin, but from a completely different, deeper layer. Secondly, they do not produce connective tissue, which they deposit there. Rather, they help to move the existing wound healing jelly to the right place."

What Yuval Rinkevich describes here as wound healing jelly, he calls Faszie in conversation with his colleagues. Fascia is part of the connective tissue, a rubber-like material that surrounds all our cells. So if an organ, the skin or even the liver or kidney, is injured, fibroblasts pull this jelly to where it is needed. Practically speaking, the jelly already contains blood vessels, immune cells and nerve fibers. The wound can heal, leaving a scar. Sometimes inconspicuous, sometimes large and proliferating. Rinkevich:

"People have really taken scarring to a whole new level. We have scars, they are so severe that they have their own names. Hypertrophic scars or keloids, for example. They occur mainly on those areas of the body where the skin is under tension, for example on our chest."

Scarring can save lives

There is a sense in this that our bodies form scars. Because this process closes open wounds incredibly fast, protects our bodies from infections and perhaps saves our lives. However, because scar tissue is different in its function and properties from normal tissue, it is associated with a number of problems.

"Victims of burns that have very extensive scars are often very limited as a result. For example, they can no longer move their arms or fingers properly because scar tissue prevents them from doing so.

Now that we know more precisely how scars develop, we could intervene in this process in a targeted manner. Perhaps in the future, people will be able to do what has so far been reserved for jellyfish, snails or earthworms: scar-free wound healing.

Dr. Yuval Rinkevich is head of the Junior Research Group: “Cellular Therapeutics in Chronic Lung Disease”. Together with his Lab he wishes to identify fundamental cellular and molecular principles of tissue/organ regeneration and to develop a knowledge basis for therapeutic strategies in clinical use. The Rinkevich-Lab studies the cellular mechanisms, embryonic lineages and stem cells that underlie the wide spectrum of regenerative responses to tissue/organ injury. The Rinkivch Lab is interested in regeneration’s multiple levels of biological organization including its developmental diversity and heterogeneity within an organism and its evolutionary aspects amongst diverse taxon groups.