Doctors Find New Natural Way to Prevent Scars
The process involves a previously unseen transformation of cells that are essential to the wound healing process.
Scars are a particularly sore subject for most people. Not only are they aesthetically unpleasing, but some of them can prove painful. That’s why research into minimizing the appearance of scars continues to be a central priority of wound care-related research. In the last several months alone, there have been quite a few exciting such breakthroughs.
That list includes a topical film developed by a group representing the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, a compound that prevents scars from forming in the first place and important new insights into scar formation following traumatic injuries.
Today, a new development in scar management and reduction comes from a joint project by scientists at the University of California, Irvine and University of Pennsylvania.
As part of a new study in the journal Science, the Irvine-Penn team outlined a new, natural form of wound healing that had previously never been studied. Working with laboratory mice, the team was able to observe myofibroblasts transforming into another cell type called adipocytes. Myofibroblasts are cells found in most wounds and usually responsible for muscle contracture following an injury. Adipocytes, meanwhile, are a specialized fat cell essential to wound healing, and their turn from myofibroblasts means that the repair process can happen in a timely manner.
In just a few days-time, the wounds had healed in the mice almost completely, with little signs of loss or damage to the fat tissue, in addition to the growth of new hair follicles. So, what causes this most important transformation from myofibroblasts to adipocytes? The researchers believe the answer lies in the hair follicles, which release a certain chemical that drives the change. It also explains why wounds without these follicles don’t experience the healing benefits of adipocytes.
In an accompanying press release, lead author Dr. George Cotsarelis said that this insight will help the team develop new techniques for better wound care. By facilitating the growth of hair follicles, fat tissue will develop, and this wound healing will happen as opposed to scarring. Maksim Plikus, a co-author on the study, explained one possible technique used to treat wounds with this research.
“Theoretically, this can be achieved via injections of signaling molecules directly inside the scar, such as with a small insulin syringe (similar to how Botox injections are now done),” he said. “Also, small-molecule agonists and antagonists that modulate signaling pathways critical for fat cell formation can be potentially developed into cream formulations.”
Additionally, the same research may lead into the development of a new anti-aging treatments. For now, though, the collective will continue its research, having already made huge steps in better preventing unsightly scars.
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