Scientists have discovered a protein that could speed up wound healing.

Doctors and scientists are constantly searching for new ways to increase the speed and efficiency of wound healing. Research and development reveals new ways to utilize the immune system for speedier recovery, and now scientists have discovered a key protein that may speed healing, ward off inflammation and protect against infection.

The study, published in Cell Reports, was conducted by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. It looked into the function of proteinases, enzymes that break down proteins, with the understanding that matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) directly affect the structural framework of tissue during the healing process. The study revealed that a certain member of this enzyme family, MMP-2, has another, previously unknown role in immune function. It has the capacity to shift cells to become part of immune response. In turn, this response was found to accelerate wound healing in some cases. However, in other cases, MMP-2 actually worsened inflammatory disease.

What does this mean for patients?

In a Mount Sinai Hospital press release, Dr. Nina Bhardwaj, immunology director at the Tisch Cancer Center at Mount Sinai and lead investigator on the study, discussed just how these findings may lead to tangible healing solutions.

“Our results show that MMP-2 uses a multitude of mechanisms to modulate the immune system,” Bhardwa said. “These data provides context to how this mechanism happens and could lead to novel treatments.”

Pharmaceutical developers could potentially utilize the MM-2 mechanisms to promote the growth of new tissue, thereby speeding up the stages of wound healing. Additionally, with the finding that MMP-2 may exacerbate inflammatory disease; scientists could leverage the gene to reduce inflammation, which is known to contribute to the formation of scar tissue.

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