- A skin patch has been developed to
improve wound healing and reduce scarring
- Angiopoietin-like 4 (ANGPTL4) is a
protein that reduces inflammation, accelerates wound healing and reduces scarring
- Newly developed skin patch is
enriched with ANGPTL4 that improves the process of
wound healing and prevent scar formation
A gel patch that could accelerate wound
healing and minimize scar formation has been developed by scientists from
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The healing patch can benefit
patients with diabetes
, who suffer
from hard-to-heal skin lesions and for
patients undergoing surgery.
Scar formation is the end-point of skin wound repair.
Scars are unattractive and have inferior biomechanical properties compared to
original unwounded skin. The newly developed skin patch contains proteins that
aid in skin repair and regeneration. This patch is unlike other single-purpose
patches available in the market, which either reduce scarring or improve
healing, but not both.
New Skin Patch for Wound Healing and Reduce
The research team led by Associate Professor
Andrew Tan and Assistant Professor Cleo Choong found a protein that improves
wound healing and reduces scarring.
‘The gel patch enriched with Angiopoietin-like 4 (ANGPTL4) aids in wound healing and prevent formation of scars. The patch could be a boon for patients who undergo surgery.’
The protein known as Angiopoietin-like 4
(ANGPTL4) reduces inflammation in the early phase of wound healing and helps in
the formation of new blood vessels and cell growth and reduces scarring at the
The research team already has a patent on the
use of ANGPTL4 in wound healing. For the current study, the team developed the
skin patch enriched with ANGPTL4 to reduce scarring.
"Scarring happens when excessive collagen
produced by the body is assembled in one direction. To reduce scars, all we had
to do was to find a 'tuning knob' that controls the amount of collagen
produced, instead of turning it off completely which is what typical
anti-scarring medicine does, and which could interfere with the healing
process," said Tan.
The team conducted experiments on mice with
diabetic wounds. They found that wounds healed stronger and thrice faster with
the application of ANGPTL4.
"The active ingredient ANGPTL4 can be
harvested from discarded fatty tissues from patients in hospitals,"
said Choong, a materials
scientist at the School of Materials Science and Engineering
The protein ANGPTL4 can be extracted easily,
which could mean that in future, a surgeon can use patient's fat and turn it
into a healing agent on the spot. This could promote faster recovery of the
patient's wounds after the surgery,
The scientists have also developed ways to
use ANGPTL4 in different formulations such as gel patches, topical creams, and
injectable microcapsules. "This will make it easy for doctors and even patients
to use in future, should the product be made available to the market,"
How Does the Skin Patch work?
Commonly used anti-scarring medications
target an "on-off switch" for collagen production, which is a pathway
When TGFbeta-Smad3 pathway is turned off, the
production of collagen is stopped and scarring is prevented. But, when the
collagen production is stopped, it affects wound repair, because collagen is
needed for various processes in skin repair and regeneration.
To reduce production of collagen, the
research team studied what causes scar collagen production to go into
overdrive. They found a protein called Scleraxis, which works with
TGFbeta-Smad3 pathway whenever scars were produced.
Scleraxis is a protein
that plays a key role in the formation of tendons, which are composed of
parallel arrays of collagen closely packed together and similar in structure to
The research team found that ANGPTL4 can
produce molecules that interfere with Scleraxis, thereby reducing the scar
ANGPTL4 could be useful in treating other fibrotic
diseases such as keloids, which has no known treatment or prevention. A keloid
is a raised scar that is larger than the wound that caused the scar.
Other research studies have also used ANGPTL4
protein from placenta and adipose (fat) tissue to accelerate healing in wounds.
The NTU research team hopes to conduct further research to refine the gel
formulation to improve its efficacy before conducting further lab experiments
and eventually moving into clinical trials.
The findings of the study are published in
Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed journal of the Nature
- Ziqiang Teo, Jeremy Soon Kiat Chan, Han Chung Chong, Ming Keat Sng, Chee Chong Choo, Glendon Zhi Ming Phua, Daniel Jin Rong Teo, Pengcheng Zhu, Cleo Choong, Marcus Thien Chong Wong, Nguan Soon Tan. Angiopoietin-like 4 induces a β-catenin-mediated upregulation of ID3 in fibroblasts to reduce scar collagen expression. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-05869x