Friend or Foe? Wound-Healing Cells Quarantine Foreign Materials

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This image shows wound-healing cells (blue) surrounding a suture (dark spot at center) in a nerve regeneration experiment. The image was captured by Jess Holz of the Whitehead Institute and Eric Soller and Sarah Simon of the Yannas Lab for Regenerative Biomaterials.

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Jess Holz, Eric Soller and Sarah Simon
Whitehead Institute and Yannas Lab for Regenerative Biomaterials
Confocal micrograph

Myofibroblasts are close relatives of muscle cells; they generate the force that pulls together the edges of an open cut as it heals.  This image reveals the tenacity with which myofibroblasts repair wounds.

Eric Soller, Jess Holz and Sarah Simon were studying the process by which damaged nerves regenerate when they accidentally caught this unusual view looking down the barrel of a suture within their experimental setup.  Myofibroblasts, recognizing the suture as a foreign material, have completely surrounded it and sealed it off, just as they would seal off an open wound.

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Eric Soller explains how and why he captured this image of myofibroblasts surrounding a suture.