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    Avotermin - The First Drug To Heal And Reduce Scars

    By Margarita Nahapetyan

    Scientists from the United Kingdom have developed a new medication which seems to improve the healing of skin scars and makes skin feel more normal. The drug Avotermin (brand name Juvista) has shown promising results in reducing scarring after surgery, accidents as well as it corrects disfiguring blemishes on the face.

    Avotermin could be used by surgeons before they perform a surgery on patients in order to minimize damage, as well as on those who have already suffered an injury. Injected into the skin after an injury the drug will aid the tissue to repair itself more quickly, reducing permanent disfiguration. "If the drug continues to work and be approved it could be used in surgeries, following trauma and burns, from road traffic accidents to elective surgery and cosmetic procedures," said Professor Mark Ferguson, a researcher at the University of Manchester and chief executive of Renovo, which makes the drug.

    Although other treatments, such as silicone gels, for example, have been used to treat scars for a certain number of years, Avotermin would be the first medication that has been successfully developed for the purpose. The medicine was created using a natural protein, called transforming-growth factor β3 (TGFβ3), a cytokine signaling molecule that sends messages between cells. This is the same substance which implies that babies do not experience and suffer scarring while they are in the womb.

    Scarring is quite difficult to treat because of the complex series of processes that are used by the body in order to close wounds in a natural way. Scars appear when the body's own immune system overreacts to a wound and uses too much skin to close the gap. Scars can range from a skinned knee to more serious scarring, such as a leg ulcer. And it is not just the skin that can scar, but all of the body's tissues as well.

    For the study, Prof. Ferguson and his colleagues conducted three trials which involved 300 volunteers. Some individuals had Avotermin (Human Recombinant TGFa3) administered to their skin before wounding and again 24 hours later to both sides of centimeter-wide puncture cuts that went all the way through the skin of the upper inner arm deep enough to the underlying muscle. Identical wounds were administered to other volunteers who received a placebo or standard wound treatment. Scarring appearance was measured using a 100-point scale. The higher was the number, the more noticeable the scar was supposed to be.

    The results of 2 trials revealed that patients who received Avotermin, scored an average of 5 points higher on a visual 100-point scale of scar appearance six months later, and an average of 8 points higher after twelve months. The third trial found that all concentrations of Avotermin produced significantly improved total scar appearance scores in contrast to placebo - from 15 points at the 5 ng dose up to 64 points at the 500 ng dose. In other words, scar formation was significantly reduced by at least 10 per cent with the newly developed drug. The wounds treated with Avotermin were also reported to be less red, raised and visible. These wounds looked more like a normal skin following the treatment period, showing that it can make ugly incurable scars almost unnoticeable. In contrast to older patients, younger volunteers gained more benefit from the drug regardless of the severity of their scars.

    The study also found that as well as enhancing the appearance of the scar, the medication also improved the structure of the skin. Prof. Ferguson said: "These studies demonstrate that Juvista (Avotermin) has potential to provide an accelerated and permanent improvement in scarring."

    The study was published in the April 9 issue of the journal The Lancet.

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