Researchers at British Bio-technology Group plc reported that an antibody to the growthfactor TGF-beta, added to wounds, can prevent scars from forming.

The Oxford company’s antibody was able to stop the formation of scar tissue inrats, without any delay in healing or any reduction in the tensile strength of the healingwound, according to a report last week in The Lancet.

The study, conducted at the University of Manchester, showed that wounds treated withthe antibody contained less collagen, with more normal orientation of the regeneratedskin, than wounds left to heal on their own.

TGF-beta can be blocked early in the healing process by low doses of antibody, appliedimmediately after wounding, because a self-perpetuation cascade is stopped. Neutralizingthe antibody will inhibit TGF’s induction of its own promoter and stops therecruitment of white cells that in turn release their own stores of TGF-beta.

“Our findings suggest an important new approach to the control of scarring innormal wound healing, complementing the practice of adding exogenous growth factors tochronic wounds in an attempt to stimulate healing,“ the researchers said.

In addition to British Bio-technology, which plans an initial public offering thisyear, biotech companies working on TGF-beta include Celtrix Pharmaceuticals Inc.(NASDAQ:CTRX), which has the factor in clinical testing for non-healing dermal ulcers andfor repairing macular holes, a form of detached retinas. Pfizer Inc., in collaborationwith Oncogene Science Inc. (NASDAQ:ONCS), and Ciba-Geigy both have TGF-beta in preclinicaldevelopment.

In Japan, Kurabo Industries Ltd. is marketing King Brewing’s TGF-beta and TGF-betaantibody.

- Robert Friedman, Ph.D.