Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Friday, November 20, 1998 Published at 02:11 GMT


Cow hormones beat burns

The hormone occurs naturally in cows

Cow hormones could hold the key to better treatment for burns, according to research.

Scientists in China found that recombinant bovine basic fibroblast growth factor (rbFGF) "decreased healing time and improved healing quality".

Open burn wounds can become infected with bacteria very easily, so the speed and quality of healing are important.

The hormone comes from cows but is grown in laboratories for medical use.

It makes structural cells, such as muscle and skin, grow and is similar to a hormone that occurs naturally in humans.

Types of burn

Dr Xiaobing Fu, of the wound healing unit at the 304th Hospital in Beijing, and colleagues published their results in The Lancet medical journal.

Previous research had shown that growth factors can accelerate healing.

Burns are classified in degrees, depending on their depth:

  • First-degree burns do not penetrate below the top layer of skin, or epidermis and heal themselves easily;
  • Second-degree burns penetrate into the next layer of skin, the dermis, and are subclassified as superficial or deep, depending on their severity;
  • Third-degree burns penetrate right through the skin and leave it charred and leathery. A skin graft is required to repair the damage.

Dr Fu and colleagues studied 600 patients with superficial or deep second degree burns at 32 hospitals across China.


Patients had either a high concentration of rbFGF or a placebo applied to their skin every day.

The researchers assessed and photographed the wounds daily.

On the third and seventh days of treatment, tissue samples were taken and analysed.

Wounds treated with rbFGF healed in an average of 9.9 days for superficial burns and 12.5 days for second-degree burns, compared with 17.0 days and 21.2 days respectively for those on placebo.

There was also better healing quality in the rbFGF patients, in which the epidermis and dermis were almost completely regenerated.

The researchers had been concerned that the treatment might have side-effects causing scarring or damage to the liver or kidneys.

However, they found no evidence of this in their subjects.

Dr Fu and colleagues said: "Use of rbFGF accelerated wound healing is of clinical benefit because burn wounds can be closed rapidly."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

23 Jul 98 | Health
Blood product may have 'killed thousands'

22 Jul 98 | Health
Not so hot hormones

22 May 98 | Medical notes
Human growth hormone

Internet Links

Burn Suvivors Online

Pinderfields Burns Centre

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99