Fingernail Stem Cell Population Identified


The ability of fingernails to grow back, unlike other body parts seems to be the result of the presence of a resident stem cells population.

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), led by Krzysztof Kobielak has identified a new stem population in nails that can either self-renew or differentiate into other distinct cell types.

Identifying these cells was no small chore, and Kobielak used an ingenious new technique for attaching fluorescent dyes and other tags to mouse nail cells. while many cells in the nail divided and spread throughout the nail, another small population stayed at the base of the nail and divided slowly or not at all.

Localization of LRCs in the nail proximal fold. (A) Components of the mouse nail. Top view, horizontal sections of the fingertip before (C) and after (B and D) 4 wk of chase with Dox identifying a population of H2BGFP marked LRCs surrounding the nail structure. Side view, perpendicular sections of the digit tip before (E and G) and after (F) 4 wk of chase with Dox demonstrating the presence of upper LRCs in the upper PF. (H) Lower LRCs at the lower nail PF. GFP; green fluorescent protein; HF, hair follicle; L-LRCs, lower label-retaining cells; U-LRCs, upper label-retaining cells. Yellow box denotes region of interest in B, and red and blue boxes (G) denote representative U-PF and L-PF regions for orientation. (Scale bars: 50 μm.)
Localization of LRCs in the nail proximal fold. (A) Components of the mouse nail. Top view, horizontal sections of the fingertip before (C) and after (B and D) 4 wk of chase with Dox identifying a population of H2BGFP marked LRCs surrounding the nail structure. Side view, perpendicular sections of the digit tip before (E and G) and after (F) 4 wk of chase with Dox demonstrating the presence of upper LRCs in the upper PF. (H) Lower LRCs at the lower nail PF. GFP; green fluorescent protein; HF, hair follicle; L-LRCs, lower label-retaining cells; U-LRCs, upper label-retaining cells. Yellow box denotes region of interest in B, and red and blue boxes (G) denote representative U-PF and L-PF regions for orientation. (Scale bars: 50 μm.)

Kobielak and his team showed that these slow-dividing cells normally contribute to the growth of her nails and nearby skin. However, if the nail undergoes some kind of injury or physical insult, a signaling protein called bone morphogen protein or BMP signals to the nail bed stem cells to switch to exclusively repairing the nail. Thus this nail bed stem cell population has the flexibility to perform dual roles in the finger tips.

Nail proximal fold cells participate in nail regeneration in response to plucking injury and upon transplantation. (A) Whole-mount Tomato expression in regenerated nails 2 wk after plucking. Linear streams of Tomato+ cells (red) in regenerating nails (arrows) extending from the nail base toward the tip. (B) Schematic model representing the role of K15+ NPFSCs during nail regeneration. (C–C′′) K5 expression (green) in regenerating nails localizing the linear K15-derived, Tomato+ (red) cell streams emanating from the basal K5+ Mx extending upward (arrows) into the overlying differentiated NP; yellow box denotes region of interest in (C′ and C′′). (D) H2BGFP+ nail LRCs persist in the finger following nail removal. (E) Nail LRCs are quiescent, whereas the nail Mx contains actively proliferating cells marked by BrdU incorporation. (F) Upon NP removal, LRCs become activated, indicated by Ki67 coexpression. (G) Nail LRCs transplantation strategy. H2BGFP+ nail cells contribute to the nail structure 17 d after transplantation (H), sectioning of 22-d chased transplant (I), demonstrating the presence of remaining LRCs from the transplant. d, day; Epi, epidermis; GFP, green fluorescent protein; L-LRCs, lower label-retaining cells; U-LRCs, upper label-retaining cells. DAPI counterstaining (blue) was used to localize cell nuclei in immunofluorescent images. (Scale bars: A and H, 500 μm; C–F and I, 50 μm.)
Nail proximal fold cells participate in nail regeneration in response to plucking injury and upon transplantation. (A) Whole-mount Tomato expression in regenerated nails 2 wk after plucking. Linear streams of Tomato+ cells (red) in regenerating nails (arrows) extending from the nail base toward the tip. (B) Schematic model representing the role of K15+ NPFSCs during nail regeneration. (C–C′′) K5 expression (green) in regenerating nails localizing the linear K15-derived, Tomato+ (red) cell streams emanating from the basal K5+ Mx extending upward (arrows) into the overlying differentiated NP; yellow box denotes region of interest in (C′ and C′′). (D) H2BGFP+ nail LRCs persist in the finger following nail removal. (E) Nail LRCs are quiescent, whereas the nail Mx contains actively proliferating cells marked by BrdU incorporation. (F) Upon NP removal, LRCs become activated, indicated by Ki67 coexpression. (G) Nail LRCs transplantation strategy. H2BGFP+ nail cells contribute to the nail structure 17 d after transplantation (H), sectioning of 22-d chased transplant (I), demonstrating the presence of remaining LRCs from the transplant. d, day; Epi, epidermis; GFP, green fluorescent protein; L-LRCs, lower label-retaining cells; U-LRCs, upper label-retaining cells. DAPI counterstaining (blue) was used to localize cell nuclei in immunofluorescent images. (Scale bars: A and H, 500 μm; C–F and I, 50 μm.)

The members of the Kobielak laboratory are also interested in other types of signals and what they might do to these nail bed stem cells. For example, could they induce them to differentiate into additional cell types besides skin and nail? Could they aid in amputation repair and the repair of severe skin injuries?

Kobielak said: “That was very surprising discovery [sic], since the dual characteristics of these nail stem cells to regenerate both the nail and the skin under certain physiological conditions is quite unique and different from other skin stem cells, such as those of the hair follicle or sweat gland.”

BMP-2 Treatment Limits Infarct Size in After a Heart Attack in Mice


Bone Morphogen Protein 2 (BMP2) is a powerful signaling molecule that is made during development, healing, and other significant physiological events. During the development of the heart, BMP2 modulates the activation of cardiac genes. In culture, BMP2 can protect heart muscle cells from dying during serum starvation. Can BMP2 affect hearts that have just experienced a heart attack?

Scientists from the laboratories of Karl Werdan and Thomas Braun at the Max Planck Institute or Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim, Germany have addressed this question in a publication in the journal Shock.

In this paper, Henning Ebelt and his colleagues Gave intravenous BMP2 to mice after a heart attack. CD-1 mice were subjected to LAD-ligation to induce a heart attack (LAD stands for left anterior descending coronary artery, which is tied shut to deprive the heart muscle of oxygen). 1 hour after the heart attack, mice were given 80 microgram / gram of body weight of intravenous recombinant BMP2. The hearts of some animals were removed 5-7 days after the heart attack, but others were examined 21 days after the heart attack to determine the physiological performance of the hearts. Control animals were given intravenous phosphate buffered saline.

Coronary arteries

The extirpated hearts were analyzed for cell death, and the size of their heart scars. Also, protein expression analyses showed the different proteins expressed in the heart muscle cells as a result of BMP2 treatment. Also, the effects of BMP2 on cultured heart muscle cells was ascertained.

The results showed that BMP2 could protect cultured heart muscle cells from dying in culture if they when they were exposed to hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide mimics stressful conditions and under normal circumstances, cultured heart muscle cells pack up and die in the presence of hydrogen peroxide (200 micromolar for those who are interested). However, if cultured with 80 ng / mL BMP2, the survival of cultured heart muscle cells greatly increased.

When it came to the hearts of mice that were administered iv BMP2, the BMP2-administered mice survived better and had a smaller infarct size (almost 50% of the heart in the controls and less than 40% in the BMP2-administered hearts). When the degree of cell death was measured in the mouse hearts, those hearts from mice that were administered BMP2 showed less cell death (as determined by the TUNEL assay). BMP2 also increased the beat frequency and contractile performance of isolated heart muscle cells.

FInally, the physiological parameters of the BMP2-treated animals were slightly better than in the control animals. The improvements were consistent, but not overwhelming.

Interestingly, when the proteins made by the hearts of BMP2- and PBS-administered animals were analyzed, there were some definite surprises. BMP2 normally signals to cells by binding a two-part receptor that sticks phosphates on itself, and in doing so, recruits “SMAD” proteins to it that end up getting attached to them. The SMAD proteins with phosphates on them stick together and go to the nucleus where they activate gene expression.

BMP signaling

However, the heart muscle cells of the BMP2-administered mice did not contain heavily phosphorylated SMAD2, even though they did show phosphorylated SMAD1, 5, & 8.  I realize that this may sound like Greek to you, but it means this:  Different members of the BMP superfamily signal to cells by utilizing different combinations of phosphorylated SMADs.  The related signaling molecule, TGF-beta (transforming growth factor-beta), increases scar formation in the heart after a heart attack.  TGF-beta signals through SMAD2.  BMP2 does not signal through SMAD2, and therefore, elicits a distinct biological response than TGF-beta.

These results show that BMP2 administration after a heart attack decreases cell death and decreases the size of the heart scar.  There might be a clinical use for BMP2 administration after a heart attack.

See Henning Ebelt, et al., Shock 2013 Apr;39(4):353-60.