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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 00:06 GMT 01:06 UK
Wound drug 'could speed healing'
Diabetic ulcers can be hard to treat
A drug could help wounds heal more quickly, and with less scarring, say researchers.

Early tests of the drug suggests it may more than halve the healing time in some cases.

The drug, called TGFbeta3, has been developed by scientists at biotech firm Renovo and could be delivered by a cream or injection.

It could potentially help treat wounds that are resistant to healing, such as diabetic foot ulcers.

The NHS faces a huge annual bill for the conventional treatment of such wounds, which can take months to heal.

Scientists already know that wounds in mammal foetuses can heal without any scarring, but do not fully understand why.

The Manchester scientists found TGFbeta3 was heavily present in the wounds of mammal foetuses - but not in those of adults.

It is possible that after birth, the body concentrates more heavily on producing inflammation in the wound to help beat infections - with the trade-off that this process produces more scarring.

The experts say TGFbeta3 may work by speeding up the migration of cells to the wound site.

Volunteer wounds

The drug has been tried on just over 300 volunteers so far - in the latest tests, the experiments involved making two separate wounds on each volunteer's arm.

One was injected with the drug, and another with a placebo substance.

They found that not only was scarring reduced significantly in treated wounds, but that the drug appeared to dramatically speed up the rate of healing.

Some wounds took approximately seven days to heal without it, but only two days with it.

Remarkably, the results were even more pronounced in people aged 60 or above - with some of the wounds so well healed that doctors could not actually spot them.

Professor Mark Ferguson, who led the research team, said that the impact on scarring could be substantial.

He said: "Scarring is a problem that is much more important to patients than it is to doctors."

However, although none of the tests looked at wound closure specifically in diabetes, a treatment which speeds wound healing could be valuable to these patients.

Currently, at least 9% of the NHS annual budget is spent on diabetes, with the bulk of that estimated to cover "complications" of the illness - often these are hard-to-treat wounds, which can often eventually require amputation to be carried out.

Emma Bunn, a care adviser at Diabetes UK, said: "While this hasn't been tested on diabetics, anything that could help wounds like these to heal would be very welcome indeed."

The research was reported in New Scientist magazine.

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26 Aug 03  |  Health
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30 May 03  |  Health

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