Millions of people worldwide suffer from traumatic injuries or health conditions that cause damage to soft tissues including nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. The body can heal some of that damage, but more serious cases like the severing of a nerve or sustained oxygen deprivation can lead to permanent loss of movement or sensation in a limb, or even require amputation.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) are naturally occurring biomolecules in the body that are known to help enhance tissue regrowth after injury or chronic disease. However, delivering these growth factors via blood vessel injection or other standard methods has suffered from low efficacy in tissue regeneration, a very short duration of action, and toxicity that has prevented them from being developed into effective regenerative treatments. Alternatives such as muscle transplantation procedures exist, but they often have poor re-innervation results, and a better option is needed.
A new technology patented by the Wyss Institute solves this problem by loading both VEGF and IGF-1 into a biocompatible hydrogel “scaffold” that is injected under the skin at the site of injury. The scaffold allows for a sustained, non-toxic local release of these growth factors, resulting in impressive repair of injured tissues. In multiple preclinical models, the co-delivery of both VEGF and IGF-1 demonstrated a prolonged ability to restore muscular function and reverse nerve damage. Blood perfusion recovered to 80-90% while muscle strength recovered to pre-injury levels after a few weeks.
This technology has the potential to enable muscle, nerve, and vascular regeneration in numerous settings, including:
- Traumatic physical injury
- Ischemic injury
- Peripheral artery disease
- Orthopedic surgery recovery
- Plastic surgery recovery
- Diabetic peripheral neuropathy