How To Prevent Scars

If you look at your skin, you will notice you already have one or two scars. As you might already know, many scars disappear over time, but there are more severe types of scars, which are hardly possible to treat. Now, scientists at the University of Western Australia are developing new compounds, which they claim could prevent largely untreatable scars such as keloids and burn scars that are associated with permanent functional loss and deformity, from forming in the first place.

“The treatment we’re developing is focused on the major needs of patients with burns, keloids and Dupuytren contracture, a hand deformity,” Swaminathan Iyer, a biochemist with the University of Western Australia, said in a statement. “These patients have extensive scarring, which can impair their movements. There are no current treatments available for them, and we want to change this.”

According to American Burn Association, tens of thousands of people in America are hospitalized for burns every year. Nearly 250000 patients in the U.S. undergo surgical treatment each year for keliods – firm, fibrous tissues formed at the site of injuries or scars. Also, a survey by RTI International found that an estimate 7 percent of Americans have Dupuytren contracture – a flexion contracture of the hand that develops when the connective tissue under the palm’s skin slowly contracts and toughens over time.

In an attempt to prevent such conditions, Iyer and colleagues are working on compounds that could inhibit an enzyme called lysyl oxidase, or LOX.

Collagen proteins (green) in fibroblasts from a Dupuytren contracture patient crosslink together.
Collagen proteins (green) in fibroblasts from a Dupuytren contracture patient crosslink together, at the time of scarring. [Iyer Lab]
At the time of scar formation, LOX enables the collagen involved in wound healing to crosslink. This bonding, in turn, underpins the fundamental biochemical process which leads to formation of scars. There is no way to fully restore the normal architecture of skin during scarring, and because of that, it leaves the new tissue functionally compromised. The goal is to block LOX, so that they can stop the processes that lead to formation of scars from the beginning.

To test their compounds, the team created a “Scar-in-ajar” model. The model was made in such a way that it mimics scar formation, and they did that by culturing human fibroblasts from scar tissues in a petri dish. When they added LOX inhibitors to cultures from patents with Dupuytren’s, keloids and other scar tissue, they detected changes that could potentially prevent scars from formation. The team used two-photon microscopy combined with biochemical and immunohistochemical analyses to confirm it.

“The preliminary data strongly suggest that lysyl oxidase inhibition alters the collagen architecture and restores it to the normal architecture found in the skin,” said Iyer. “Once the in-vitro validation has been done, the efficacy of these compounds will be tested in pig and mouse models. Depending on the success of the animal studies and optimal drug candidate efficacy, human trials could be undertaken in a few years.”

Iyer said the LOX inhibitors could be used for cosmetic purposes although their primary targets are patients with severe or extensive scarring. Their work was presented at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Source: American Chemical Society (ACS)