Larger cells found to respond to injury

A professor has discovered a healing process that enlarges cells to maintain the function of injured or diseased tissue.

Vicki P. Losick, Ph.D., assistant professor at MDI Biological Laboratory in Maine, calls the process wound-induced polyploidy, or WIP.

Typically, healing organisms use cell division to compensate for cell loss that occurs with injury, disease or aging. But that process has limits.

Cellular hypertrophy, or growth, was recognized previously. But Losick's work proved larger cells are an organism's specific way of responding to injury, a change triggered by an increase in DNA. Instead of the usual two sets of chromosomes, polyploid cells have three or more.

Losick and Albert S. Jun, M.D., professor at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Medical School, published their findings in PLOS ONE.

Losick originally identified the mechanism regulating WIP in the fruit fly. She and Jun studied Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy, a human eye disease, in a mouse. 

Whether cells proliferate or grow depends on context.  But WIP could have many uses when combined with gene therapy or drugs that boost cell generation.