Feb 22, 2013

Professor Heather Maynard, graduate students Thi Nguyen and Caitlin Decker, former postdocs Sung-Hye Kim and Darice Wong, and Professor Joseph Loo have developed new bio-mimicking therapeutics that can be used to quicken the wound healing process.

A signaling molecule known as basic fibroblast growth factor, or bFGF, is secreted by our cells to activate healing processes, as well as embryonic development, tissue regeneration, bone regeneration, the development and maintenance of the nervous system, and stem cell renewal. It has potential applications in medicine for stimulating or quickening these processes, but has previously been too unstable for use outside of the body.

The researchers discovered how to stabilize bFGF, synthesizing a polymer that mimics the structure of heparin, a naturally occurring complex sugar found on the surface of our cells, and attaching it to bFGF, thus rendering it a more suitable candidate for medical applications.

"This stable bFGF–polymer conjugate may also be useful in diseases other than wound healing — for example, vocal chord repair, cardiac repair and bone regeneration," Maynard said. "More generally, we think that this idea of making polymers that mimic natural stabilizers is useful in a wide range of fields."

The research was published Feb. 17 in the online edition of the journal Nature Chemistry and will appear in an upcoming print edition of the journal. The full news release can be read here.