Heart research leads to new unexpected wound therapy

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A gel form of the peptide ACT1 sped healing in a trial.
A gel form of the peptide ACT1 sped healing in a trial.

Scientists researching electrical signals that regulate heartbeats have stumbled across a new, highly effective treatment for venous leg ulcers. The team from Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute recently published the results of a phase 2, randomized clinical trial in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology

The new treatment comes in the form of a peptide called ACT1. 

Participants in the trial had ulcers measuring an average of 3.5 cm that had been open for at least 17 months. The control group received standard compression bandage treatment while the test group received an application of ACT1 in a gel form along with compression bandage treatment. 

The ACT1 treatment was 79% effective in closing the wounds after 12 weeks, compared with 36% for the
control group. 

Venous leg ulcers typically result when pressure builds within the vein, causing tissues to break down from the inside and eventually causing the vein to rupture. Sealed canals within normal, healthy cells, called hemichannels, open up as a result of this trauma. This leads to swelling and the formation of scar tissue, which makes it more difficult for the wound to heal.

ACT1 works by preventing certain proteins that are linked to inflammation from binding together, which has the effect of resealing the hemichannels and helping to end the cycle of inflammation.