Queensland researchers who have developed a promising treatment for chronic wounds have now doubled its healing power, and their success is thanks to an unlikely role model – a carcinogenic, parasitic Thai liver fluke, Opisthorchis
“Chronic or non-healing wounds, which particularly afflict diabetics, smokers and the elderly, can lead to amputation,” parasitologist
A growth factor-based treatment, Regranex, is approved for use in the United States and South Korea but is effective in only 50% of cases and has not been able to solve the high recurrence rate.
“A distinguishing feature of our peptide is that it’s informed by the millennia in which humans and liver fluke have evolved together, and so far that’s proving to be a significant advantage,”
So how did a parasitic liver fluke get into the healing business?
“As part of our work on a potential vaccine to protect people from the Thai liver fluke, we established that the granulin molecule it produces has a hidden talent – it supercharges healing,”
In research published last year*, an AITHM team outlined its success in identifying and reproducing the active parts of a molecule of granulin produced by the Thai liver fluke.
“That was a promising start, but we soon hit a major roadblock,”
The solution was to build their own peptide – and while their first version demonstrated potent wound healing in mice, and achieved good results with lab-grown human cells, the latest model shows even greater promise.
“Our focus has been on refining the structure,”
The rebuilt peptide, currently known as P4A, has demonstrated double the healing power of the first synthetic version.
“We already know, from work published earlier this year#, that P4A stimulates blood vessel formation – another important part of wound repair.
“These are extremely encouraging milestones in our search for a powerful weapon against non-healing wounds.”
The patent application for P4A was published in March of this year.
“Our next phase is to secure funding partners to help us progress from lab-based success to
clinical trials and ultimately give hope to patients who face the devastating prospect of losing limbs because of non-healing wounds,”
“Every day 12 Australian diabetics have a limb amputated because of a chronic
“We’re confident we have a very strong contender for what could one day be a cream that a diabetic could apply at home, avoiding a long and costly hospital stay and possible amputation.”
The research (Structural variants of a liver fluke derived granulin peptide potently stimulate wound healing) is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
* Development of a Potent Wound Healing Agent Based on the Liver Fluke Granulin Structural Fold, The Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 2017 60 (10), 4258-4266
#Granulin Secreted by the Food-Borne Liver Fluke Opisthorchis
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