Whether it’s a surgical wound, stretch marks, or the result of falling off your bike as a kid, most of us have unsightly scars we wish would go away. But what if there was a way to prevent a visible scar from ever forming? Well, researchers have now developed a band-aid that can do just that, not only promoting healing but also significantly reducing scarring too.
So how does it work?
Weirdly enough, it uses a protein that’s most commonly found in the skin of fetuses. Fetal skin heals without scarring thanks to the abundance of a protein known as fibronectin. This protein helps reassemble skin cells as a wound heals, minimizing scar tissue. But sadly for us adults, our skin loses most of it after we are born.
Scars are mainly made up of collagen, a protein that’s naturally common in the skin. However, when collagen helps a wound heal, it forms a different structure, creating a scar that doesn’t blend with the rest of the skin.
To tackle this issue, a team of scientists led by Harvard University looked at how patches containing fibronectin could heal wounds on mice. Each mouse had two wounds – one covered with a fibronectin patch and plastic film, and the other with just a plastic film.
The wounds under the protein patches healed after 11 days, three days quicker than the control ones. Five days later, the mice had no visible scarring at all.
The researchers examined the new skin under the microscope, looking for natural elements like sweat glands and hair follicles. The new skin had an 84 percent similarity to normal skin, but the control scars only showed a 55.6 percent similarity. The findings are published in the journal Biomaterials.
However, it’s important to note that the new study only tested out the technique on mice, not people, and a tiny sample of just eight mice was used. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t ever work on humans. The researchers are now planning to test their creation on pig skin, which is more like our own.
According to the study’s authors, the new approach “could set a new paradigm for enhancing wound healing and may thus find use in a variety of regenerative medicine applications.”
While this new finding is exciting for many of us, it could be life-changing for people with psychologically distressing scars, like large facial ones, or ones that remind them of traumatic events. In some people, scars can even lead to depression and anxiety.
Although scars tend to fade with time, they never totally disappear. There are certain treatments for scars, like steroid injections, silicone sheets, and even surgical removal, but these aren’t always effective and are far from ideal. Having a simple way to prevent scarring in the first place could save many people the upset that scars often bring.
[H/T: New Scientist]