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Researchers Develop Promising New Scar Treatment Therapy

April 10, 2009

UK researchers say a drug designed to reduce scarring after surgery or injury has shown promising results in early human trials, BBC News reported.

The drug, called Avotermin, was tested in healthy volunteers with scars monitored over the period of a year and found that wounds injected with the treatment were less red, raised and visible than those treated with a dummy drug.

The researchers said further trials are now starting across Europe.

The Lancet medical journal reported that the University of Manchester performed early work on the drug before Renovo, a spin-off biotechnology company, was set up to continue its development.

The study involved three trials of participants who were given identical 1cm full thickness skin incisions on both arms and were then given an injection of avotermin in one arm and placebo in the other.

The drug was administered when the wounds were made and then given to patients again after 24 hours. The researchers then had doctors assess the subsequent appearance of the scars on a 100-point scale.

Many of those doctors did not know which wound was treated with which drug after the treatment was administered.

The results showed that the scars treated with Avotermin looked more like normal skin than the scars treated with placebo, the study said.

Researchers have been struggling for decades to identify the active ingredient in the drug and found that a signaling protein in the body called TGF-3 showed anti-scarring properties.

Now advanced clinical studies are currently underway, according to Study leader Professor Mark Ferguson, an expert in wound healing at the University of Manchester and co-founder and CEO of Renovo.

He said his team was recruiting 350 patients undergoing scar revision operations where the bad scar is cut out and one end of the new scar is injected with the drug and one end with placebo.

If proven to be successful, Ferguson said the treatment could be used in the early management of wounds from surgery and injury.

“What we know from our studies is you have to give the treatment when you close up the wound so if someone has had trauma it could be given within 48 hours of the injury,” he said.

However, Ferguson said some people had a tendency to scar worse than others.

“If you look at people who scar badly, with this drug they had an acceptable scar rather than an ugly scar and with people who scar well you end up with a scar that is almost unnoticeable,” he added.

Other experts, like Brendan Eley, chief executive of The Healing Foundation, described TGF-3 as one of the “holy grails” of anti-scarring therapy, indicating that the impact on scar formation being both structural and aesthetic was “very promising”.

He said the development could have a significant impact on patients with complicated and potentially disfiguring wounds.

“The results are promising but patients should not get their hopes up of the treatment being available any time soon,” said Rajiv Grover, a consultant plastic surgeon and secretary of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.

He said the study only involved patients with very controlled scars.

“The difficulty is the bad scars are not just a centimeter long with no tension in them,” he added.

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