Can you electrically stimulate wounds to make them heal faster?, Gawoon Shim, G4 (3964478)
As a part of studying ‘collective migration’—the large scale migration of thousands of cells that is important for healing and developmental processes—the CohenLab harnesses a process where cells respond to an electrical field by moving along the field gradient in a phenomenon dubbed "electrotaxis". In this research we seek to investigate how to accelerate wound healing by increasing skin cell migration speed into the wound bed. We look into modulating the adhesion strength between cells to affect the collective migration speed of a monolayer, a sheet consisting of thousands of cells attached to its neighbors through the E-cadherin protein bonds. Using primary mouse skin cells, a cell type whose E-cadherin expression levels can be modulated by varying the extracellular calcium level, we show how increasing the strength of cell-cell adhesion within a monolayer can decrease the speed of collective migration by 1) creating a jammed state within the monolayer and 2) strengthening the cytoskeletal network and delaying the reorientation and realignment of cells required for directional migration. We then explore utilizing this discovery in real-life wound healing, employing methods to temporarily weaken the cell-cell adhesion strengths in monolayers by disrupting E-cadherin junctions to increase migration speeds and later restoring the junctions to revert the monolayer to its original state.