Modified Maggots Enhance Wound Healing
Maggots are back in the medical arsenal. You may be thinking, “What next – leeches?”
But actually, those rather disgusting fly larvae never really left. Maggot debridement therapy (MDT) has been an approved treatment that has shown to be cost-effective for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. It has also been used successfully to treat many other medical conditions.
Now researchers have genetically engineered maggots so they help wound healing by doing more than eating dead flesh and kill microbes. The modified critters also produce and release a hormone -- a human growth factor -- that actively stimulates cell growth and wound healing.
The study team, from North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh and Massey University in New Zealand, got the idea of creating a strain of maggot to clean and heal. They genetically engineered green bottle fly larvae to produce and secrete human platelet-derived growth factor-BB (PDGF-BB) in response to a trigger.
PDGF-BB stimulates cell growth and survival, promotes wound healing and has been investigated as a possible topical treatment for non-healing wounds. The team engineered the maggots so they only made PDGF-BB if raised on a diet that lacked the antibiotic tetracycline. The maggots then produced high levels of the growth factor, and it was also present in their excretions and secretions.
The study authors note that most people with diabetes live in less wealthy countries with little access to expensive treatments, and MDT could offer them an effective and accessible alternative.