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Gel Patch Improves Wound Healing and Reduces Scarring

Gel Patch Improves Wound Healing and Reduces Scarring

Written by Shirley Johanna, M.Sc, M.Phil
Article Reviewed by 
The Medindia Medical Review Team on September 26, 2017 at 7:08 PM
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  • 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 Scarring

The research team led by Associate Professor Andrew Tan and Assistant Professor Cleo Choong found a protein that improves wound healing and reduces scarring.

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Gel Patch Improves Wound Healing and Reduces Scarring

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 final phase.

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, explained Choong.

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," said Choong.

How Does the Skin Patch work?

Commonly used anti-scarring medications target an "on-off switch" for collagen production, which is a pathway called TGFbeta-Smad3. 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 scar tissue.

The research team found that ANGPTL4 can produce molecules that interfere with Scleraxis, thereby reducing the scar collagen production. 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 Publishing Group.


  1. 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

Source: Medindia

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