Winter 2018

Healing Insights

Vicki P. Losick, SK08, is studying the role of polyploidy in wound repair.

By Laura Ferguson

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Epithelial nuclei (green) and epithelial cell boundaries (magenta).

It has long been thought that healing happens primarily through cell division. Vicki P. Losick, SK08, has revealed an alternative player: polyploidy, or cell enlargement. Losick, a scientist at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, has found that polyploidy—a condition in which a diploid cell acquires one or more additional sets of chromosomes—can arise in response to injury and repair wounds. To further this research, the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences recently granted her an Outstanding Investigator Award for Early Stage Investigators (about $1.7 million over five years). “I am thrilled,” Losick said. “It’s a great honor to have my work recognized.”

Photo: Courtesy of MDI Biological Laboratory

Her research, conducted on fruit flies, promises to yield a deeper, more nuanced understanding of polyploidy, which has been studied mostly in insects and plants—it drives strawberries, for instance, to become large and plump. In the body, polyploid cell growth has been largely associated with cancer and other degenerative diseases, including heart and liver diseases. But Losick hopes to identify the factors that regulate the creation of these extra-large cells “so we can harness their healing potential” and limit the degenerative consequences, she said.

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