If you sustained an injury, whether it’s large or small, you’ll likely end up with a scar. Scars, after all, are the natural outcome of wound healing, and there’s typically few ways to avoid it. Until now, that is.
A team of researchers from The University of Western Australia, Fiona Wood Foundation, and the Royal Perth Hospital Burns Unit recently came up with new compounds which they claim could stop scars from forming in the first place. “The treatment we’re developing is focused on the major needs of patients with burns, keloids and Dupuytren contracture, a hand deformity,” said Swaminathan Iyer, Ph.D., whose research will be presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. “These patients have extensive scarring, which can impair their movements. There are no current treatments available for them, and we want to change this.”
In the United States, an estimated 250,000 patients undergo surgical treatment every year for keloids—those firm, overgrown scars—as well as other types of excessive scarring. To prevent this, Iyer and his colleagues studied compounds that could stop an enzyme called lysyl oxidase or LOX. During scar formation, this enzyme is found to enable the collagen involved in wound healing to crosslink, which, in turn, leads to scar formation.
So the team came up with “novel and highly selective small molecules,” which they tested using a “scar-in-a-jar” model. This technique, which mimics scar formation, involved culturing human fibroblasts from scar tissues in a petri dish, which would overproduce and secrete collagen. For their study, the team added LOX inhibitors to cultures from patients with keloids and other scar tissue, and detected changes using two-photon microscopy combined with biochemical and immunohistochemical analyses.
“The preliminary data strongly suggest that lysyl oxidase inhibition alters the collagen architecture and restores it to the normal architecture found in the skin,” Iyer said, adding that they are hoping to test it on humans “in a few years.”