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Lighting up wound healing

A high magnification confocal image of the GFP-collagen I transgenic fish demonstrating the orthogonal criss-cross pattern of the collagen I fibrils within the flank skin

22 June 2018

New research reveals the dynamics of collagen deposition and repair

Fibrillar collagen is an abundant structural protein component in biology which is part of many tissues including the matrix layer beneath the epidermis of our skin and the fibrotic scar that inevitably forms whenever we heal a wound. Historically, it has been difficult to live image the process of collagen fibril disposition and remodelling because of the difficultly in generating cells which produce collagens fused to florescent markers which then form into fibrils.

Professor Paul Martin’s lab have published, in the Journal Developmental Biology, a paper describing the teams work to develop a zebrafish transgenic line which expresses collagen-1 fused with the fluorescent markers GFP and mCherry. The fluorescent collagen is expressed specifically within the basal epidermal cell layer.

Using this model, the lab have been able to reveal the dynamics of collagen-I fibril deposition during embryonic skin development, as well as when the collagen meshwork is repaired following wounding.

One of the findings this new model has already shown is that during wound healing, collagen fibrils are first laid down randomly and only subsequently aligned, and this absolutely mirrors what happens as the first collagens are laid down as skin is first developing in the embryo. 

The next step in this research will be to establish zebrafish lines that can be used to study collagen deposition and its remodelling in other organs in health and disease.

Lead Author Dr Josephine Morris said on the work: “We believe this new transgenic fish has the scope to address a wide range of biological questions involving collagen I in the future, including helping us figure out how scars are laid down, not just in skin but in other tissues such as heart and joints.”

Further information

Paper: Live imaging of collagen deposition during skin development and repair in a collagen I – GFP fusion transgenic zebrafish line. By Josephine Morris, Stephen Cross, Yinhui Lu, Karl Kadlerc , Yongbo Lu, Sarah Dallas, Paul Martin.

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