Researchers genetically engineer maggots to heal wounds

28 March 2016

Researchers have genetically engineered a strain of maggots to heal wounds better.

The scientists from North Carolina State University had engineered maggots to produce and then secrete human platelet derived growth factor-BB (PDGF-BB), which aids the healing process by stimulating cell growth and survival.

Max Scott, a North Carolina State University professor of entomology and colleagues engineered green bottle flies such that they only made PDGF-BB if raised on a diet that lacked the antibiotic tetracycline. High levels of PDGF-BB were found in the larvae and in the excretions and secretions of maggots, which made the technique a potential candidate for clinical use.

The green bottle fly larvae, called Lucilia sericata, were spread on an open wound caused mostly by diabetic foot ulcers. The wound was cured by the engineered maggots, which removed the dead tissue and decontaminated the wound. The newly-devised biotherapy has received the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is named maggot debridement therapy (MDT).

Foot ulcers are common among patients of diabetes with the more severe cases leading to amputation.

The technique would be tested on laboratory rats to assess their capabilities in wound healing and infection-prevention. In case the approach proved effective,  it could be used for dozens of common conditions, including burns, bedsores and ulcers.

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