For the first time scientists studying the cellular processes underlying the body's response to healing have revealed how a flash of calcium is the very first step in repairing damaged tissue. The findings, published in Current Biology, could lead to new therapies that speed up the healing process following injury or surgery.
Until recently, very little was known about how damaged tissue activates and attracts the first white blood cells to the wound - the first stage in the healing process. However, researchers from the University of Bristol's School of Biochemistry in collaboration with a team from the University of Bath, have shown that the very first trigger in this process is a flash of calcium which spreads like a wave back from the wound edge through gap junctions that connect all the cells.
This flash of calcium signal goes on to activate an enzyme known as DUOX that synthesises hydrogen peroxide, which, in turn, attracts the first white blood cells to the wound. This white blood cell invasion, which is initiated during our inflammatory responses, is needed to kill off invading microbes and stop the onset of septicaemia following tissue damage.
The findings indicate that the wound-induced calcium flash represents the earliest identified signal following wounding and might therefore orchestrate the rapid recruitment of immune cells.