Researchers at the University of Bristol have found that suppressing one of the genes, which is normally switched on in wound cells, may heal wounds faster and reduce scarring.
Their finding holds importance not only for wound victims, but also for people who suffer organ tissue damage through illness or abdominal surgery.
Scarring occurs when a blood clot forms upon skin damage, and cells underneath the wound start the repairing function. It is a natural part of tissue repair, and is most obvious where skin has healed after a cut or burn.
When a tissue is damaged, white cells in the body start killing microbes to protect skin from infection. The same white cells guide the production of layers of collagen, which help the wound heal but stand out from the surrounding skin and result in scarring.
Professor Paul Martin, who led the current study, says that osteopontin (OPN) is one of the genes that triggers scarring.
His team has found that applying a gel, which suppresses OPN to the wound, can accelerate healing and reduces scarring.
The researcher says that the suppression of OPN works in part by increasing the regeneration of blood vessels around the wound, and speeding up tissue reconstruction.
"White blood cells (macrophages), and the chemical signals (PDGF) delivered to the wound cells, and osteopontin itself are now all clear targets for developing medicines to improve healing of skin wounds and other organs where fibrotic tissue repair can be debilitating," said Martin.
"We hope that it won't be too long before such therapies are available in the clinic. Indeed, the technique for suppressing OPN to reduce scarring is currently being licensed and patented by a Biotech company specializing in wound-healing therapies," he added.
The findings will be published by the Journal of Experimental Medicine on 26 January in a paper entitled 'Molecular mechanisms linking wound inflammation and fibrosis: knockdown of osteopontin leads to rapid repair and reduced scarring'.