In "before" and "after" photos from advertisements for wound-healing ointments, bandages and antibiotic creams, we see an injury transformed from an inflamed red gash to smooth and flawless skin.
What we don't appreciate is the vital role that our own natural biomolecules play in the healing process, including their contribution to the growth of new cells and the development of new blood vessels that provide nutrients to those cells.
Now, UCLA researchers led by Heather Maynard, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a member of UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute, are working to take advantage of our body's ability to heal itself by developing new bio-mimicking therapeutics that could be used to treat skin wounds.
Among the key players involved in natural wound-healing is a signaling molecule known as basic fibroblast growth factor, or bFGF, which is secreted by our cells to trigger processes that are involved in healing, as well as embryonic development, tissue regeneration, bone regeneration, the development and maintenance of the nervous system, and stem cell renewal.
bFGF has been widely investigated as a tool doctors could potentially use to promote or accelerate these processes, but its instability outside the body has been a significant hurdle to its widespread use, Maynard said.
Now, Maynard and her team have discovered how to stabilize bFGF based on the principle of mimicry. Relying on the growth factor's ability to bind heparin a naturally occurring complex sugar found on the surface of our cells the team synthesized a polymer that mimics the structure of heparin. When attached to bFGF, the new polymer makes the protein stable to the many stresses that normally inactivate it, rendering it a more suitable candidate for medical applications.
The research is published Feb. 17 in the online edition of the journal Nature Chemistry and will appear in an upcoming print
|Contact: Stuart Wolpert|
University of California - Los Angeles