UCLA scientists have discovered a protein factor that helps a fibroblast cell’s ability to help in wound healing.

Fibroblasts are cells found in connective tissues of the body. In response to a wound, they migrate toward and spread through molecular changes. Such proliferation is linked with the reprogramming of gene expression patterns.

To understand how fibroblast cells migrate, the UCLA team used RNA sequencing, imaging, primary human cells isolated from skin, cancer cell lines and mouse modeling. Researchers found that proliferating cells adjacent to wounds express higher levels of cleavage and polyadenylation factors than fibroblasts in unwounded skin.

“These same factors are elevated in proliferating fibroblasts, and affect migration in cancer cells as well,” said Hilary Coller, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology. “By studying skin repair mechanisms, the researchers hope to learn how they can prevent cancer cells from using the same processes to spread through the body. Cancer cells rely on cleavage and polyadenylation factors to migrate.”

The study was published online in Genome Biology.