Developing a Novel Therapeutic Strategy to Accelerate Wound Repair

Hoang Nguyen, Ph.D. (320x240)
Dr. Hoang Nguyen, Center for Cell and Gene Therapy

Wound repair is a complicated and multi-step regenerative process that is essential to maintain the barrier function of the skin after damage. Each year close to 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic wounds due to diabetes or other circulatory problems. Defective wound repair not only adversely affects patients’ quality of life, but also poses a great burden on the healthcare system. Unfortunately, the molecular mechanisms of wound repair are not well understood, and there is only one FDA approved topical treatment, which has limited efficacy but increased risks of cancer mortality. Thus, there is a great need of a safer and more effective wound healing promoting agent.

Dr. Hoang Nguyen, assistant professor in the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, and her team at Baylor College of Medicine have unique expertise in skin stem cell studies and aim to develop a novel therapeutic strategy to effectively accelerate wound repair. In a recent paper published in Nature Communications, Dr. Nguyen’s research team discovered lipocalin 2 (Lcn2) as a potent secreted factor in promoting wound repair in vitro and in vivo. Lcn2 promoted epidermal cell migration in culture, and when topically applied to full thickness wounds in mouse skin, Lcn2 protein substantially accelerated wound closure in treated animals.

To determine whether Lcn2 is essential in the wound repair process, the researchers applied anti-Lcn2 antibody to deplete endogenously secreted Lcn2 and found that wounds treated with the Lcn2 blocking antibody repaired less efficiently than controls. More importantly, Lcn2 deficient mice demonstrated impaired wound healing, further supporting the critical role of Lcn2 in wound repair. Collectively, Lcn2 is both necessary and sufficient for wound repair.

Additional studies from Dr. Nguyen’s team also provided valuable insights into the signaling pathways and potential downstream molecular mechanisms of the Lcn2-mediated wound repair process, paving the road for next-step studies. Dr. Nguyen recently was awarded the Alkek Award for Pilot Projects in Experimental Therapeutics, a prestigious funding program aiming to catalyze preclinical research into clinical applications. She is continuing the Lcn2 project and plans to further evaluate the therapeutic use of Lcn2 on acute and chronic wounds.

Applications/Advantages

• The Lcn2 research project addresses an important unmet medical need for a new treatment option for wound repair.

• Lcn2 demonstrated impressive potency in promoting wound repair in both in vitro and in vivo settings.

• This innovative technology can be used to treat acute wounds and to manage a variety of chronic wounds.

• The researcher’s work on Lcn2 has been published in a high-impact journal and received funding for further development.

BLG Project Manager

Mercy Chen, Ph.D. (mschen@bcm.edu)