Is the Best Home Treatment for Keloids and Hypertrophic Scars Under Threat?
The discovery of two species of African spiny mice that “jettison” their skin if found under attack is leading scientists to believe that a human growing her or his limbs back after amputation is not so far off!
The science of regeneration has come “leaps and bounds” in the last 10 years with lab-grown bladders, stem-cell-seeded wind pipes and other regenerated human organs. This is great news and shows an interesting future ahead in the home treatment for keloids.
Image via Nature
This discovery is the first of its kind in mammals. Head of the team Ashley Seifert believes it will be possible to “turn on” the capability of humans to regenerate their damaged tissue scar free. In a report at nature Seifert is quoted saying “By looking at the common genetic blueprints that exist across vertebrates, we hope to find the ones that we could activate in humans… We just need to figure out how to dial the process in mammals back to do something the entire system already knows how to do.” Scar less healing is highly sort after because of its aesthetic overtones, after all who wouldn’t enjoy scar free skin?
A Mouse That Behaves Like a Lizard…
The mice under the spotlight — Acomys percivali and Acomys kempi — were captured in their natural habitat in Kenya, Africa and undertook a rigorous investigation with Seifert and his team. Mechanical testing showed the skin of the mice to be brittle and tore effortlessly with no discernible fracture plane, it is believed that the mice developed this trait as a type of escape mechanism from predator attack, much the same as crustaceans, lizards, urodeles, arthropods and mammals that autotomize (self-amputate). The breakthrough discovery here is that unlike your everyday lab mouse (Mus musculus), or any other mammal known to man, that heal by first growing scar tissue after having their skin amputated, these Kenya natives undergo complex regeneration, regrowing entire sections including hair follicles, sweat glands, skin, hair and, even more remarkably so, cartilage.
Seifert and his team of scientists have been investigating the wound healing behaviors of unconventional animal models and it appears to have paid off with this latest discovery. Possibly of most importance was the study of how the mouse healed a hole-punch to its ear. The findings of the hole-punch study suggest that a phenomenon of tissue regeneration, known as a blastema, was present much like the blastema that a Axolotl salamanders form when regenerating entire limbs, severed spinal cords and even its brain. The discovery of a blastema healing mechanism in this little mammal suggests that we as mammals possess a greater capacity for regeneration that is waiting to be unlocked. When this discovery is combined with the powerful “gene” tools available to scientists now it is only a matter of time before some aspect of regeneration in the mice will be identified as helpful for human health.
The Future’s Problems Need Well Rounded Scientific Teams
Seifert attributed the discovery partly to “Cross-talk among scientists” which is not a new idea, as an example the CSIRO of Australia uses multidisciplinary science as an effective manner to tackle the more and more complex problems presented to humanity today. This study of the mice for instance was reported by Seifert to include the input of a developmental biologist, a mammalogist, an ecologist, engineers, and only then wrapped up with molecular work.
Generally speaking, skin repair in humans is flawed and leaves behind scar tissue that is different to normal skin in that it doesn’t have the majority of its functional capability and disrupts its aesthetics. For the skin to heal perfectly, or regenerate, a basic requirement is that the stem cells neighboring the wound mobilize and fabricate brand new tissue from the existing matrix of collagen, elastic fibers and adipocytes. Regenerative medicine has advanced somewhat in recent years with proven therapies that rely on stem cells that are adult-derived from skin and bone marrow.
Other tissues are being tested to see if they work, BUT, focus has shifted to a problem far more complicated. Ever since the israeli teenager got a brain tumor after stem cell injections, and despite the “dodgy” nature of the therapy conducted in Russia, stem cell scientists have had to “err on the side of caution”. It is becoming increasingly apparent that not only do the correct stem cells need to be in the right place but they also need to be “fed” the correct signals and molecules to orchestrate the orderly regeneration of stem cells and their subsequent change into normal cells.
Image via Wikipedia Commons
That being said researchers are making headway and discovering new ways to get the “orchestrator” molecules where they need to be and in the correct quantity. In fact, the research being undertaken on the broad spectrum of animals with the ability to regenerate their own tissues and organs is going ahead in tandem with research into delivery mechanisms of the much needed fuel required to propel the regeneration process as humans do not appear to provide the optimum mix naturally. Successful delivery techniques of these molecules into the nucleus of the stem cells are gradually improving for the effort. A group of signalling glycoproteins, known as Wnt, is subject of a lot of this research after its involvement in healing tissue and bone was discovered previously leading to the detailed yet incomplete picture of Wnt and its function we have now.
To place Wnt proteins where they need to be in order to harness their regenerative effects has been a challenge however recent research, where the Wnts are embedded on the surface of liposomes (which are as close to an artificial cell as you can get and have been successful in use as transportation vehicles for chemotherapy medications), has built confidence in scientists that this form of liposomal packaging mimics the biological state of active Wnts that naturally reside on the surface of our cells to perform their communication functions. All in all this is proving to be a very effective manner in which to deliver Wnts to the site where they are needed.
Wnt Glycoprotein Help Regenerate Snails and Humans Alike
The Helix Aspersa Müller is a species of snail can protect and regenerate its skin, shell and even eyes if they are damaged by predator attack, mishap or environmental factors such as the sun. It does this by producing and delivering an immune serum, a type of complete natural skin care solution, that regulates enzyme activity and neurite outgrowth, has anti-inflammatory agents that limits oxidative damage after tissue injury and contains stabilizers, cofactors, and/or co-receptors for – a) enabling cells to communicate with one another and effectively work together (these are called “growth factors”), – b) attracting immune cells to areas of infection (these are called “chemokines”), and – c) as regulatory proteins released by cells of the immune system that act as inter-cellular mediators in the generation of an immune response (cytokines). Studies, first in 2008 and as late as 2012, have verified the similarity between the structure of human skin and the Helix Aspersa Müller snail and rigorous scientific analysis is rounding up support for its future use in wounded tissue.
Controlled keloid scarring is an ancient ritual of the Nuba people and as seen in this video there is great beauty and controversy to be found in it. Their rich display of culture can be perceived as brutishly taboo and contrasts our societal “mode” that generally depicts blemish free skin. The Nubu people has been threatened in recent times as the new world encroaches on their regal territory, it would be a shame to lose this contrast that grounds us in our heritage.
Keloid scars are not however always the product of a skilled and deliberate hand and can really impact our lives differently in comparison to this beautiful and positive manner.
You don’t have to wait though!
Biocutis has developed a cream that contains liposomes embedded with the rich regenerative serum of the Helix Aspersa Müller along with its Wnt glycoproteins. The FDA has ensured that we cannot make claims about the performance of this ingredient against disease at this stage pending medical trials worth tens of millions of dollars and a wait of years if not decades before it could be marketed like that. We are unable to hold a patent for our technique because we collect the secretion of the snail in its whole form which cannot be patented because it is a natural substance i.e. not an extract. We have countless testimonies of the success about our at-home treatment for keloids and hypertrophic scars, that say it is successful in soothing the itching while reducing the appearance of keloids and hypertrophic scarring naturally.