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Therapeutic could heal wounds faster

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Chronic or nonhealing sores or wounds can be caused by a number of factors, including diabetes, surgery, severe skin irritations, burns, traumatic accidents or impaired blood flow. As diabetes and obesity rates in the U.S. soar, these types of wounds are becoming more common, and the cost to treat them is on the rise.

A new therapeutic developed by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, could help these kinds of wounds heal faster than traditional wound-healing ointments, bandages and antibiotic creams do.

The UCLA researchers, led by Heather Maynard, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a member of UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute, have identified a signaling molecule involved in the body's natural wound-healing process. Known as basic fibroblast growth factor, or bFGF, it is discharged by our cells to trigger processes that are involved in healing, as well as other processes such as embryonic development, tissue and bone regeneration, and stem cell renewal.

Scientists have hypothesized that, during wound healing of normal tissues, heparin--a naturally occurring complex sugar found on the surface of human cells--activates bFGF and helps form new blood vessels, a vital process in wound healing. But Maynard says bFGF is not stable outside the body, making it a challenge for scientists to harness its properties for therapeutics.

To overcome that problem, Maynard and her team have found a way to stabilize bFGF. Tapping the growth factor's ability to bind heparin, the team created a polymer that mimics the structure of heparin. They then attached it to bFGF, finding that the new polymer stabilizes the protein in the face of many stresses that could inactivate it. This makes the therapeutic better suited for medical applications.

Maynard said she and her team are partnering with dermatologists to conduct preclinical investigations on animals, and she hopes it will eventually be tested in humans. She told FierceBiotechResearch that the therapy would be ideal for diabetic patients.

"Not only do they get chronic wounds more than the rest of us, but they take longer to heal in that population," she said.

Maynard said the therapeutic would be a topical treatment, likely in the form of an ointment or cream. She said her team is still looking into the long-term stability of the therapy, such as how long it can be kept at room temperature.

The research was published in the journal Nature Chemistry. 

- read the release
- get the research abstract

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