BETHESDA, Md., March 24, 2011 We all know the adage: A little bit of a good thing can go a long way. Now researchers in London are reporting that might also be true for a large protein associated with wound healing.
The team at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Imperial College reports in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that a protein generated when the body is under stress, such as in cases of physical trauma or disease, can affect how the protective housing that surrounds each cell develops. What's more, they say, tiny pieces of that protein may one day prove useful in preventing the spread of tumors or fibrosis.
At just 174 nanometers in diameter, tenascin-C is pretty big in the world of proteins, and it looks a lot like a spider with six legs, which are about 10 times longer than its body. Thanks to those long legs, tenascin-C can do real heavy lifting when it comes to wound healing.
"Tenascin-C plays many roles in the response to tissue injury, including, first of all, initiating an immune response and, later, ensuring proper tissue rebuilding," explains Kim Midwood, who oversaw the project.
When the injury alarm is rung, tenascin-C shows up on the scene and attaches to another protein, fibronectin. Together, tenascin-C and fibronectin help to construct the housing, or extracellular matrix, that surrounds each cell.
"The extracellular matrix is the home in which the cells of your body reside: It provides shelter and nutrients and also sends signals to the cell to tell it how to behave," says Midwood. "To make a finished tissue, the matrix must be carefully built."
Tenascin-C's job is a temporary one. When your hand is cut, for example, it appears at the edges of the wound and then goes away when scar tissue develops, says postdoctoral research associate Wing To: "Tenascin-C is thought to play a major role during the rebuilding phase of tissue injury by promoting regeneration of
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American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology