Scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a gel patch prototype to optimize the process of wound healing. When fully developed, scientists believe that it could benefit diabetic patients or patients with undergone surgeries.
This gel patch makes use of a protein known as Angiopoietin-like 4 (ANGPTL4). The protein minimizes the chances of infections when a wound is healing. It then helps in the formation of new blood vessels and cell growth and thus reduces scarring.
Assoc Prof Andrew Tan said, “Scarring happens when excessive collagen produced by the body is assembled in one direction.”
“To reduce scars, all we had to do was to find a ‘tuning knob’ that controls the amount of collagen produced, instead of turning it off completely which is what typical anti-scarring medicine does, and which could interfere with the healing process.”
When experimenting on mice, scientists found the wound to heal strongly 3 times faster.
The patch actually works by turning off collagen production. For this, scientists primarily studied the reason behind scar collagen production to go into overdrive. They found a protein called Scleraxis is active with the TGFbeta-Smad3 pathway whenever scars produced.
Scleraxis is a vital element in the formation of tendons. It consists of parallel arrays of collagen closely packed together and similar in structure to scar tissue. When ANGPTL4 interacts with Scleraxis, it reduces scar collagen production.
Prof Tan said, “The easy extraction of ANGPTL4 also could mean that in future, a surgeon can use the patient’s fat and turn it into a healing agent on the spot, to promote faster recovery of the patient’s wounds after an operation.”
“This will make it easy for doctors and even patients to use in future, should the product be made available to the market.”