The word maggots may sound disgusting, but these insects could help heal wounds faster. Scientists from North Carolina State University and Massey University in New Zealand genetically modified green bottle flies so they secrete a human growth factor that could boost wound healing.
This discovery is particularly significant to patients with diabetes and other conditions that produce long-lasting ulcers and sores. The study was published in the journal BMC Biotechnology.
The research team genetically engineered larvae of the green bottle fly, scientifically known as Lucilia sericata. These insects have been placed on wounds for more than a century since they eat dead tissue and secrete antimicrobial compounds that help clean the wound.
In fact, sterile, lab-raised version of this larvae are often used in maggot debridement therapy (MDT), a technique approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that consists of removing dead tissue and cleansing a wound to stimulate fast healing.
But clinical trials conducted before this study have all failed to prove that maggots accelerate a wound’s healing time, which is why the research team thought it may be a good idea to modify them genetically.
For this study, scientists created two brands of maggots. One was designed to produce human platelet-derived growth factor-BB when the wormy insects were warmed to 37 degrees Celsius. The other group was genetically engineered to secrete the growth factor when the maggots’ diet lacked a certain antibiotic.
The team found that the first brand of larvae did not release acceptable amounts of the healing growth factor, which the second group with the antibiotic-limited diet did achieve.
Scientists hope to tests the engineered maggots in clinical trials to find out whether they can actually represent a promise for diabetes patients.
Engineered maggots could offer an affordable treatment to patients who lack access to high-tech options
Study author Max Scott, who teaches entomology at NC State University, said in a press release that the findings of this research could also help diabetes patients who live in low or middle-income countries and have limited access to treatment options. He pointed out that the modified maggots could offer “a cost-effective means for wound treatment that could save people from amputation and other harmful effects of diabetes.”
He pointed out that the modified maggots could offer “a cost-effective means for wound treatment that could save people from amputation and other harmful effects of diabetes.”
Source: Discovery News