Written for Scars1 by Jason Hilford
Scars may often look unnatural, but they are actually the product of the body's inborn ability to heal itself after a wound, burn or surgery. This often-overlooked detail is the springboard for new research centering on scar healing and prevention.
New York University (NYU) scientists recently revealed a potential method for curbing the body's natural scar-producing function. As reported in the FASEB Journal in July 2012, researchers from the university's medical school treated scars on lab mice with a topical agent that inhibits the function of adenosine, the substance that stimulates the scar response.
When a wound or other trauma occurs, the body produces adenosine and delivers it to the injury site. There, it goes to work on the injury, stimulating the healing process. Scarring is caused by adenosine working overtime and creating an excessively thick and dense layer of fibrous tissue.
The NYU researchers treated the scars on the mice with a pharmacological substance that deters the reception of adenosine. When less adenosine was received by the injury site, the scar stopped growing once the wound had healed.
"We hope that our findings may lead to new agents that diminish scarring and disfigurement following burns, wounds or even illnesses that destroy skin, and lead to a better quality of life for victims of these traumas," Dr. Bruce N. Cronstein, one of the scientists involved in the study, told The Science Daily.
A Plastic Surgeon's Take
"I see the NYU study as an exciting development in the field of scar reduction," says Dr. Richard A. D'Amico, the medical director of the Plastic Surgery Skin Care Center in Englewood, New Jersey. "Scarring is a fundamental component of the healing process. However, scarring that leads to obvious physical abnormalities, or even impaired movement, goes beyond the scope of what's natural and necessary. While the research is preliminary, the possibility of topically impeding the natural scar mechanism has the potential to bring about some major strides in scar research."
Dr. D'Amico currently uses laser skin resurfacing for treating scars. Using a focused beam of light, the laser resurfacing procedure destroys the thick outer layers of skin on the scar. The result is healthier, more elastic skin at the scar site.
"Laser resurfacing has proved to be highly effective for scars," Dr. D'Amico says. "If the research on topical inhibition continues on its current course, the possibilities of scar revision and prevention through the use of these techniques should evolve considerably in the next decade."
Jason Hilford is a copywriter for Etna Interactive, a medical marketing agency. He is also a freelance writer and editor.
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Photo: Research Development and Engineering Command