Between 50 and 80 million new scars are created from surgery in the US each year with far more occurring from accidents. This is not only a cosmetic issue. Scarred tissue has no hair follicles or sweat glands and is weaker and less flexible than unblemished skin. This can make it unable to adapt to changing temperatures or limit our ability to achieve full range of motion. To help resolve this issue, a team of scientists from Stanford Medicine have developed a drug that prevents scarring after injury.
The researchers first discovered that interfering with certain molecular signals during healing can prevent scarring from occurring. Additionally, more supple skin, like that of fetuses and elderly people, scars less because it has reduced tension. Using this information, they identified an existing drug, called verteporfin, which blocks mechanical-stress signaling in cells, and combined it during surgery with mechanically-reduced tension, to create incisions that healed with zero scarring.
Although the researchers have only experimented with mice, they anticipate that the technique could be applied in humans in the near future. They are optimistic that the process could be used not only to reduce external scarring, but also internal scarring from liver fibrosis, burns, abdominal adhesions, scleroderma, and damage to heart tissue after a heart attack.
Scars may seem like a no-big-deal blemish, but for individuals with extensive or prominent scarring, it can have negative physical effects and reduce self-confidence. This technology is promising for creating more effective healing in the future.