Medical

Anti-scarring medication causes collagen-forming cells to "dance"

Anti-scarring medication cause...
Microscope images of the enmeshed collagen fibers in a scar treated with alphaCT1 (left) and the less flexible aligned fibers in a scar treated with a non-medicated gel (right)
Microscope images of the enmeshed collagen fibers in a scar treated with alphaCT1 (left) and the less flexible aligned fibers in a scar treated with a non-medicated gel (right)
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Microscope images of the enmeshed collagen fibers in a scar treated with alphaCT1 (left) and the less flexible aligned fibers in a scar treated with a non-medicated gel (right)
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Microscope images of the enmeshed collagen fibers in a scar treated with alphaCT1 (left) and the less flexible aligned fibers in a scar treated with a non-medicated gel (right)

Not only are surgical scars unsightly in many cases, but their limited elasticity can also reduce the patient's range of motion. There may be new hope, though, as a recent study has shed light on how a therapeutic peptide could drastically reduce such scarring.

Called alphaCT1 (short for "alpha Connexin Carboxy-Terminus 1"), the peptide was first created approximately 10 years ago by a team at Virginia Tech. Although its ability to reduce scarring was noted at the time, the means by which it's able to do so hadn't been fully explored until now.

In a recent double-blind study, a Virginia Tech team led by Prof. Rob Gourdie started by excising 5-mm punches of skin from the inner biceps of 49 healthy test subjects. Each person had one punch taken from each arm. The resulting wounds were then treated with topically applied gels – one wound on each person received a gel containing alphaCT1, while the other received a non-medicated gel as a control.

After a healing period of 29 days, the scars that formed on both wounds were photographed and biopsied for analysis. It was found that on the wounds treated with alphaCT1, the collagen that made up the scar took the form of enmeshed strips – this allowed the tissue to stretch in all directions, looking and behaving like unwounded skin.

By contrast, the wounds that were treated with the control gel produced much less pliable scars, in which the collagen strips were situated parallel to one another. Tests conducted on rats and guinea pigs produced similar results.

When human skin cell cultures were observed via a microscope, it was found that alphaCT1 caused collagen-producing cells known as fibroblasts to first stretch out like a rubber band, then snap back into their original shape and change direction. It is believed that this action, dubbed "the fibroblast dance," is what causes the collagen strips to become enmeshed.

AlphaCT1 is currently the subject of a phase 3 clinical trial, and is being commercialized by spinoff company FirstString Research.

A paper on the study was recently published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal.

Source: Virginia Tech

3 comments
3 comments
John Banister
So I wonder, if this was used with cadexomer iodine, would you get the rapid healing without the scar tissue, or would they cancel one another out?
HoppyHopkins
Sounds like a great break through, especially for those who would otherwise have to live with huge burn scars. Next, they need to add that compound to all anti bacterial wound ointments. Some of those hyodrogels that accelerate healing rates
Karmudjun
John - good premature question. Proof-of-Concept in Phase II trials with Phase III starting (and a company ready to commercialize the product).

Ben - these articles are good, thank you. You did mention Phase III trials are beginning. But you and the source article didn't cover the quality of the healed wound. Wound strength will improve to a point ~ 80% as strong as normal tissue, and healing of wounds takes more than the 2 months a wound requires to hit 60% strength with 'normal' scarring. That is why absorbable sutures have a 2-3 month strength with only the deeper stitches requiring a longer absorption or no absorption. The body MAY be screwing up the healing with scars and keloids - Or the body may be over-responding to the injury gluing all the layers of tissue together for fastest immediate strength. Will this therapy lengthen the course of wound strength recovery? I hope this is a win/win, improved wound strength with normal or lessor healing time and reduced wound scarring. Sometimes medical hope is misplaced, sometimes medical hope is fulfilled!

Again, thanks for the article Ben.