Magazine article Science News

Gene Gun, Growth Factors Promote Healing

Magazine article Science News

Gene Gun, Growth Factors Promote Healing

Article excerpt

Five years ago, researchers discovered that they could speed wound recovery by adding some of the body's own chemicals to an injury (SN: 7/15/89, p.39). But developing an efficient and economical way to administer those chemicals -called growth factors -- in low, sustained doses proved difficult.

Now, a Boston-based team has come up with an innovative way around this obstacle: transferring the gene for the growth factor instead of trying to use the chemical itself. The scientists accomplish this transfer with a gene gun, a technique first developed for plants and recently applied to animals (SN: 1/1/94, p.6).

"We have proven the feasibility of inserting a gene directly into the wound, and we have seen a significant biological effect," says Elof Eriksson of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

For their experiments, Eriksson and his colleagues developed an incubation chamber that they place over a wound to isolate it from the rest of the body. They use this chamber on people and on pigs, whose skin closely resembles that of humans.

Solutions of skin cells called keratinocytes, even genetically altered ones, survive and regenerate when added to a wound inside a chamber, they report in the Sept. 27 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES. For those studies, they used a modified retrovirus to add genes to the skin cells.

Working with Agracetus, a biotechnology company based in Middleton, Wis., the Boston group next tried a more direct gene transfer. They coated gold particles with rings of DNA containing either a piece of the gene for human epidermal growth factor or a marker gene. …

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