The work of a team from Edinburgh could not only improve wound healing, but address conditions like inflammatory disease.

Fish in general have a fairly substantial role in the wound care industry. Atlantic Cod, for instance, have been used to develop a durable new line of wound dressings. Meanwhile, scientists have also studied shark biology to help streamline wound healing in humans.

However, no finned creature has proven quite as beneficial to this area of study as the zebrafish. Back in summer 2016, a team of researchers from Duke University used these small fish to study the many processes of how skin heals. What that group of scientists found isn’t just going to help develop new drugs and therapies for wound care but could aid new cures for certain cancers.

Today, the mighty zebrafish helps science once again, courtesy of a new project from a group with the University of Edinburgh.

Exploring inflammation

As part of a recent study in the journal Scientific Reports, the Edinburgh scientists have begun to use the zebrafish to study inflammation in wound healing. Specifically, the scientists are interested in the many cells that make up the zebrafish’s larger immune system and how these move about and interact with one another. The most important cell within this system is the neutrophil, often referred to as the front line of any living creature’s immune system.

When confronted with infections or other invaders, it’s the neutrophils that fight them off, which causes the process of inflammation. Animals like the zebrafish need inflammation for proper wound healing, as it helps control bleeding. However, inflammation can quickly reach a dangerous point and cause greater harm to the animal itself.

After exploring the zebrafish’ immune system for some time, the Edinburgh team noted that a certain molecule, called CDK9, is responsible for maintaining the inflammation process beyond what’s healthy for the zebrafish. So, the team used a series of CDK9 inhibitors, which caused the neutrophils to self-destruct and maintained a proper level of inflammation. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first study to explore CDK9 and wound care. For instance, a December 2015 study in the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences found similar insights into the molecule – namely that it plays a role in conditions and occurrences like tumor-promoting inflammation.

Speaking with, lead author Adriano Rossi said that this fundamental understanding of inflammation in zebrafish will allow scientists to develop a series of new therapies. These will not only help with better wound healing techniques but also address conditions like inflammatory disease and certain lung disorders, among others.

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