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Speeding up wound healing the EGF way.

Speeding up wound healing the EGF way

Human skin wounds heal faster when treated with epidermal growth factor (EGF), according to a new study. The finding, which confirms results in pigs, may enable physicians to lower the infection rate of otherwise slow-to-heal wounds and shorten the waiting time between skin grafts in burn victims. In addition, the investigators say their work and follow-up studies now underway suggest that other genetically engineered growth factors, alone or combined with EGF, may speed healing in a variety of skin wounds.

Scientists from Emory University in Atlanta, Vanderbilt University in Nashville and the University of Louisville in Kentucky studied pairs of similar skin regions in each of 12 plastic surgery and burn patients. Using a surgical shaver, they removed patches of epidermis--the top skin layer -- and upper layers of the underlying dermis for skin grafts needed by the patients, which created "wounds" they could study. Twice a day they treated one injured region of each patient with antibiotic cream alone and the other site with the cream plus EGF. Photographs and biopsies revealed that EGF-treated wounds healed an average of 1.5 days faster than wounds receiving the cream only.

"A day and a half is not that big a deal per se," notes coauthor Gregory L. Brown of the University of Louisville. But if a burn patient has only 20 percent of his or her skin available for grafts, he says, EGF could shorten the healing time required for that skin to yield another graft. The team reports its findings in the July 13 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE.

Brown and Vanderbilt's Lillian B. Nanney, a coauthor of the paper, have separately begun several other wound-healing studies, they told SCIENCE NEWS. In pigs, whose skin resembles that of humans, both are examining the ability of other growth stimulants, including fibroblast growth factor and transforming growth factor-beta, to speed dermal wound healing. In humans, Brown's group is studying EGF's effect on diabetic ulcers -- surface wounds that resist rapid healing. Nanney says other Vanderbilt researchers will soon begin a clinical trial using fibroblast growth factor to heal deep, persistent bedsores that can require limb amputation if left untreated. And researchers at several centers are investigating the wound-healing effects of intramuscularly injected human growth factor. "We don't know in wounds what growth factors come into play and in which sequence," Brown says.

Researchers say studies of EGF for treating burned skin await further results of its effectiveness in wounds less infection-prone. Although the Food and Drug Administration so far has approved EGF only for experimental treatment of skin graft wounds, Nanney says she envisions the day when people can routinely obtain an EGF preparation "over the counter for skin wounded during a fall or from a scrape-of-the-knee injury."
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Title Annotation:epidermal growth factor
Author:Cowen, R.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 15, 1989
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