Editors' ChoiceWound Healing

A Fusion Protein Fix for Cuts and Scrapes

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Science Translational Medicine  12 Jan 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 65, pp. 65ec6
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002107

Most of us have had to deal with a few infected cuts and scrapes, but these small skin abrasions usually heal quickly. However, people with poor circulation or diabetes can develop frequent skin wounds and ulcerations that heal poorly and can last several months or more. Often, because of the lack of healing these chronic wounds get seriously infected, requiring surgical intervention or even amputation. One promising strategy to speed up the body’s natural healing response is to treat the wound site with keratinocyte growth factor (KGF), which speeds up repair of the epidermis. However, topical application of this factor needs to be repeated many times, resulting in a costly treatment.

To tackle this problem, Koria et al. have created a “fusion” protein that combines KGF with elastin-like peptides (ELPs). These ELPs help to prolong the beneficial effects of KGF at the wound site by forming nanocarriers that provide “drug depots” to the wounded tissue. ELPs are biocompatible with skin because they are derived from the protein elastin, which is a major component of the skin’s dermal layer. The authors administered the KGF-ELP fusion protein in a fibrin gel to the skin wounds of diabetic mice and waited 2 weeks to see whether their “biological bandage” would speed up healing. Two weeks later, the treated mice showed improved healing and skin formation at wound sites as compared with those of untreated control animals. These promising results highlight the potential of the KGF-ELP fusion protein to boost healing of those minor cuts and scrapes that bedevil the unwary, and the far more serious wounds that afflict patients with diabetes or poor circulation.

P. Koria et al., Self-assembling elastin-like peptides growth factor chimeric nanoparticles for the treatment of chronic wounds. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 30 December 2010 (10.1073/pnas.1009881108). [Abstract]

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