University of Bristol researchers said their finding has major implications not just for wound victims, but also for people who suffer organ tissue damage through illness or abdominal surgery.
The scientists noted all tissues scar as they repair. For example, alcohol-induced liver damage leads to fibrosis and liver failure, and after most abdominal surgeries scars can often lead to major complications.
Tissue damage triggers an inflammatory response by white cells to protect skin from infection by killing microbes. The same white cells guide the production of layers of collagen that help a wound heal, but they stand out from the surrounding skin and result in scarring.
In the new study, Professor Paul Martin and colleagues determined the gene osteopontin triggers scarring and that applying a gel that suppresses the gene in a wound can accelerate healing and reduce scarring.
The findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
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