Chronic ulcers, diabetic ulcers, surgical wounds, trauma wounds and burns can lead to severe debilitation, long hospitalizations and amputation. While antibiotics have been used in some cases, there has been only limited success. Therefore, developing improved methods to heal wounds more effectively and quickly is a priority for physicians around the world.
Led by Andrew V. Schally, Ph.D., M.D.h.c., D.Sc.h.c., the 1977 Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine, Distinguished Medical Research Scientist of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Distinguished Professor of Pathology, an international team of researchers at the University of Miami and the University of Athens in Greece has discovered a potential method of improving wound healing using growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH).
Schally and Norman Block, M.D., professor of pathology, urology, and biomedical engineering and the L. Austin Weeks Family Professor of Urologic Research, collaborated with Hippokratis Kiaris, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Athens Medical School, and his colleagues. Their findings are published in the October 11 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Schally, Block and the Athens scientists showed that a synthetic agonist of GHRH, JI-38, stimulated the growth and migration of fibroblasts in mouse models, which are necessary for wound healing and skin repair. The researchers found that a synthetic antagonist of GHRH inhibited fibroblast activity, indicating that the GHRH mechanism created this change. In addition to sparking fibroblast growth for wound healing, this particular JI-38 agonist also activated other genes and the expression of smooth muscle actin-alpha, yet another sign of the activity of fibroblasts.
The finding “could be extremely important,” says Schally, who believes it can help children and adults who suffer from painful burns, diabetics with slow-healing ulcers, and veterans who have been wounded in battle. “Improving the healing time of all these patients will diminish the death and disability from all serious wounds.”