When healing turns to scarring: Research reveals why it happens and how to stop it

September 18, 2008

For the first time, research from The University of Western Ontario has revealed the mechanisms involved in the origin of scarring or fibrotic diseases, as well as a way to control it. The study, led by Andrew Leask of the CIHR Group in Skeletal Development and Remodeling, is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"People are generally unaware of how prevalent scarring diseases are, and the impact they have on our health," says Leask, a professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. "Cardiovascular and other diseases including diabetes, cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis all involve scarring, which affects the organs' ability to function. Another example is scleroderma, a progressive scarring disease affecting 300,000 people in the United States and 40,000 Canadians. It's estimated about 40% of all deaths and health care costs in North America are related to scarring or fibrosis."

During tissue repair, specialized cells called myofibroblasts migrate to the wound where they generate the adhesive and tensile forces required for wound closure. Normally, these myofibroblasts then disappear from the wound. But if they persist and continue to make connective tissue, it can become too thick, preventing the organ from functioning properly. So for instance, in the case of diabetes, this scarring could cause the kidney to shut down, requiring dialysis or a transplant.

The research team which included investigators from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and University College London in England, identified that a particular protein called glycogen synthase kinase 3 normally acts as a brake to terminate repair. If this protein is impaired, scarring results after wounding. Investigators also found elevated levels of a protein called endothelin-1. Next, they used a drug, already on the market, which blocks endothelin-1 and found it prevented scarring but did not affect wound closure in mice. While the use of the drug for this purpose would still have to be tested in humans, Leask believes this therapy could stop fibrosis from occurring without affecting normal tissue repair.

Source: University of Western Ontario

Explore further: Researchers identify 'signal' crucial to stem cell function in hair follicles

Related Stories

Topical curcumin gel effective in treating burns and scalds

March 14, 2017

What is the effect of Topical Curcumin Gel for treating burns and scalds? In a recent research paper, published in the open access journal BioDiscovery, Dr. Madalene Heng, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the David Geffen ...

New reconstructive surgery for female genital mutilation

March 6, 2017

There is new hope for the hundreds of millions of women worldwide who have been subjected to genital mutilation. A surgeon in Penn Medicine's Center for Human Appearance has developed a reconstructive procedure that can increase ...

Using fat to help wounds heal without scars

January 5, 2017

Doctors have found a way to manipulate wounds to heal as regenerated skin rather than scar tissue. The method involves transforming the most common type of cells found in wounds into fat cells - something that was previously ...

Recommended for you

Zika infections could be factor in more pregnancies

May 25, 2017

Zika virus infection passes efficiently from a pregnant monkey to its fetus, spreading inflammatory damage throughout the tissues that support the fetus and the fetus's developing nervous system, and suggesting a wider threat ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.