Children's Hospital Colorado

Researchers Use Phenomenon of Fetal Regeneration to Improve Wound Healing

Children's Hospital Colorado | December 05, 2017
A male doctor wearing blue scrubs has his arms crossed and he's smiling at the camera.

Perfect healing seen in fetal surgery results in scarless regeneration
Researchers are using the phenomenon of “fetal regeneration” to improve wound healing for adults and children alike. Ken Liechty, MD, maternal fetal surgeon at the Colorado Fetal Care Center, has observed that the fetal response to injury results in regeneration of injured tissue or “perfect healing.”

“I have been fascinated to see the capacity of the fetus to regenerate or restore normal tissue and function following surgery performed while in the womb,” said Dr. Liechty. “Our study uses nanoparticles to recreate the fetal environment and replicate the fetus’ ability to regenerate tissue. We are using this strategy to tackle the clinical challenge of imperfect healing as it occurs in diabetic wounds.”

Dr. Liechty and his team are examining whether their novel nanoparticles could promote regeneration by decreasing the inflammation in diabetic wounds that slows the healing process. Nanoparticles are tiny, microscopic particles that are smaller than human cells. Tests in diabetic mice and pigs have shown these nanoparticles can correct the impaired diabetic wound healing.

Promoting the healing process in difficult wounds
“Diabetic wounds that do not heal are the cause of two-thirds of all non-traumatic, lower limb amputations and result in much higher mortality rates,” continued Dr. Liechty. “The results we are seeing in treating these wounds with a topical nanoparticle application are impressive, and we are eager to expand this to human trials.”

Dr. Liechty’s work using nanoparticles has been recognized for outstanding research with commercial potential and was awarded the 2016/2017 Gates Grubstake Fund, which will help bring the research to the FDA for clinical trials. 

Applying research to address heart failure
Studies are also being performed on the hearts of adult sheep that have suffered a heart attack. Initial results show that the application of these nanoparticles restores the sheep hearts to full function and prevents scar formation that can lead to heart failure.

Dr. Liechty’s team presented these latest findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons this past October and will present again at the American Surgical Congress in February 2018.