Stem cells in nails give clues to limb regeneration

June 17, 2013

A signaling pathway in the stem cells of nails is a crucial component of the process of regrowth after amputation, a discovery that could help to facilitate research into limb regeneration.

A signaling pathway in the stem cells of nails is a crucial component of the process of regrowth after amputation, a discovery that could help to facilitate research into limb regeneration.

Investigators from New York University Langone Medical Center identified a population of stem cells under the base of the nail that helps to promote the regrowth of partially amputated digits. The process can only occur, however, if there is sufficient nail epithelium, according to study findings.

Studying mice, the investigators performed toe amputations in a group of normal mice and in a group of mice that had been treated with a drug rendering them unable to make signals for nail cells to grow. The signals that helped stem cells develop into nail cells were critical for the regeneration of amputated digits, researchers found.

“These results establish a link between NSC (nail stem cell) differentiation and digit regeneration, and suggest that NSCs may have the potential to contribute to the development of novel treatments for amputees,” study authors concluded.

The study was published online June 12 in Nature