September 2021

“Life…” Forrest Gump famously declared “…is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”.  This reflects one of the joys of scientific research: sometimes, you have no idea where the work you are doing will lead. Hence, we were pleasantly surprised during our research on psoriasis to find that our biomolecule of interest may also enhance wound healing.

Dr Kehinde Ross
Credit Jari Louhelainen

How did we make this MicroRNA discovery?

Well, we had been investigating the effects of a small genetic molecule known as microRNA-184 (also known as “miR-184”) because the inflammation in psoriasis increases the amount of miR-184 in skin cells. But does miR-184 exert good or bad influences on the behaviour of these skin cells under healthy conditions? It turns out miR-184 is good for our skin, promoting the pathways that lead to effective skin function. What we did not know was whether these good properties of miR-184 extended to wound healing. We had a hunch that miR-184 may help wound closure though, because the mechanisms that control normal skin behaviour are often recruited to repair the skin when it is damaged. One such mechanism is cell migration since the ability of skin cells to move into and re-populate a damaged area is one of their major pro-healing features. Therefore, we put some synthetic miR-184 molecules into skin cells and recorded cell movement using time-lapse microscopy.  When we analysed the data from 48 hours of recordings, we were delighted to find that the cells loaded with miR-184 moved three times faster than their counterparts without miR-184. It was certainly a eureka moment for us!

What difference does miR-184 make to patients?

With non-healing chronic wounds reaching epidemic proportions across the globe, there is an urgent need for innovative new treatments that accelerate wound repair. Our findings add miR-184 to the growing number of microRNAs with the potential to transform patient lives by boosting pro-healing behaviour of various cells involved in wound closure. We are building collaborations and seeking funding for the next stage of this exciting journey to make a real difference to patients’ lives...and create more opportunities to be surprised by scientific joy.  

With thanks to the British Foundation for funding microRNA research in my laboratory and Dr Adam Richardson for performing the experiments on miR-184 behaviour in skin cells. His thesis is available here.


Ross, K (2021). MiR Equal than Others: MicroRNA Enhancement for Cutaneous Wound Healing. Journal of Cellular Physiology

Dr Kehinde Ross, Liverpool John Moores University  

Above video: Migration of skin cells loaded with synthetic miR-184. Credit Dr Adam Richardson and Dr Kehinde Ross.

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