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Discovery: Prof Mark Ferguson
A scar-free future?
Staring into the mouth of an alligator is not usually the time to start having bright ideas. But 20 years on from his Eureka moment, Manchester scientist Mark Ferguson is on the brink of a medical breakthrough - a drug treatment for scars.
Like many scientific advances, Professor Mark Ferguson’s discovery came about by chance. His genius, however, lay in seeing a new way to treat people with scars.
Scar-free: baby alligators
As a dental scientist, he was studying cleft palates when he noticed that baby alligators he’d operated on inside their eggs, hatched scar-free.
Since then, he has developed Juvista, the world’s first scar reduction drug that he believes can improve disfiguring scars in human beings without the need for laser treatment or skin grafts.
For many people, scarring is a serious problem, causing pain, loss of motion, and disfigurement eg. burn and accident victims, who often have significant scarring over large areas of their bodies.
The potential for an anti-scarring drug is massive. According to research, there were at least 42 million procedures in the US alone in 2004 which could have benefited from scar reduction therapy.
Placebo (left); after treatment (right)
But, as with all new treatments, exhaustive clinical trials are necessary before it can be licensed as a prescription drug.
So, Professor Ferguson’s company Renovo is now looking for people with scars to volunteer for testing as part of its Revise study.
"We’re just commencing our final studies that are in scar revision surgery," he said. "That’s where someone has a very bad scar and it troubles them so much and they go to plastic surgeon to get that scar removed.
"We’re going to treat one group with the drug, the other with a placebo. That’s a big international trial, just started. The first centre is in Manchester, the first patient recruited in the world was in Manchester and we’re actively recruiting at the present time."
The treatment is based on a particular growth factor (TGFβ3) present in embryos which has since been isolated and manufactured artificially.
So what difference can the new drug really make? According to Prof. Ferguson, he believes it can make a 60% improvement on average.
"If you’ve got a bad scar, then with Juvista you get a scar that’s acceptable," he said.
Adding: "If the scar is very good, then you still get an improvement and it’s very difficult to see the scar."
If you wish to find out more about the trial, please contact Renovo on 0161 276 7130 or 7150 or go to their website www.renovo.com
last updated: 16/04/2009 at 16:27