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  Pharmaceutical Patents  

 

Title:  Wound healing and treatment of fibrosis
United States Patent: 
7,566,446
Issued: 
July 28, 2009

Inventors: 
Ferguson; Mark W. J. (Derbyshire, GB), O'Kane; Sharon (Derbyshire, GB)
Assignee: 
Renovo Limited (Manchester, GB)
Appl. No.: 
11/540,956
Filed: 
October 2, 2006


 

Covidien Pharmaceuticals Outsourcing


Abstract

Compositions for use in the treatment of wounds and fibrosis comprising a therapeutically effective amount of a compound that modulates actin assembly and organization intracellularly and/or extracellularly and a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle; such a compound promotes the rate of wound healing and also prevents or reduces fibrosis. A preferred compound is gelsolin.

Description of the Invention

The present invention relates to wound healing, and also to regulating fibrosis in the treatment of conditions in which fibrosis is a major mechanism of tissue repair or where excessive fibrosis leads to pathological derangements and malfunctioning of tissue.

Wound healing in adults is a complicated reparative process. The healing process begins with the recruitment of a variety of specialised cells to the site of the wound and involves, extracellular matrix and basement membrane deposition, angiogenesis, selective protease activity and re-epithelialisation. An important component of the healing process in adult mammals is the stimulation of fibroblasts to generate the extracellular matrix. This extracellular matrix constitutes a major component of the connective tissue which develops to repair the wound area.

The connective tissue that forms during the healing process is often fibrous in nature and commonly forms into a connective tissue scar (a process known as fibrosis).

A scar is an abnormal morphological structure resulting from a previous injury or wound (e.g. an incision, excision or trauma). Scars are composed of a connective tissue which is predominately a matrix of collagen types 1 and 3 and fibronectin. The scar may consist of collagen fibres in an abnormal organisation (as seen in scars of the skin) or it may be an abnormal accumulation of connective tissue (as seen in scars of the central nervous system). Most scars consist of abnormally organised collagen and also excess collagen. In man, in the skin, scars may be depressed below the surface or elevated above the surface of the skin. Hypertrophic scars are a more severe form of normal scarring, are elevated above the normal surface of the skin and contain excessive collagen arranged in an abnormal pattern. A keloid is another form of pathological scarring which is not only elevated above the surface of the skin but also extends beyond the boundaries of the original injury. In a keloid there is excessive connective tissue which is organised in an abnormal fashion predominately in whirls of collagenous tissue. There are genetic predispositions to forming both hypertrophic scars and keloids. They are particularly common in Africo-Carribean and Mongoloid races.

There is a need to provide medicaments that promote the healing of wounds. For example, it is often desirable to increase the rate of healing in the case of acute wounds (such as penetrative injuries, burns, nerve damage or even wounds resulting from elective surgery). chronic wounds (such as diabetic, venous and decubitus ulceration) or for generally healing compromised individuals (for example the elderly). In these examples, the wounds can severely influence quality of life or even result in death and therefore the rate of healing often needs to be increased as much as is clinically possible. Where the rate of wound healing is increased, there is often an associated increase in scar formation hut this may be of secondary importance compared to the desired increase in the rate of healing.

The term "wound" as used herein is exemplified but not limited to injuries to the skin. Other types of wound can involve damage, injury or trauma to an internal tissue or organ such as the lung, kidney, heart, gut, tendons or liver.

There are however other instances where the regulation of scar formation is of primary importance and the rate of wound healing is only of secondary consideration. Examples of such situations are scars of the skin where excessive scarring may be detrimental to tissue function and particularly when scar contracture occurs (for instance skin burns and wounds which impair flexibility of a joint). The reduction of scarring to the skin when cosmetic considerations are important is also highly desirable. In the skin, hypertrophic or keloid scars (particularly in Africo-Caribbean and Mongoloid races) can cause functional and cosmetic impairment and there is a need to prevent their occurrence. Scarring resulting from skin grafts in both donor sites and from the application of artificial skin can also be problematic and need to be minimised or prevented.

As well as scars of the skin, internal scarring or fibrosis can be highly detrimental and specific examples include:

(i) Within the central nervous system, glial scarring can prevent neuronal reconnection (e.g. following neuro-surgery or penetrating injuries of the brain).

(ii) Scarring in the eye can be detrimental, in the cornea, scarring can result in abnormal opacity and lead to problems with vision or even blindness. In the retina, scarring can cause buckling or retinal detachment and consequently blindness. Scarring following wound healing in operations to relieve pressure in glaucoma (e.g. glaucoma filtration surgery results in the failure of the surgery whereby the aqueous humour fails to drain and hence the glaucoma returns.

(iii) Scarring in the heart (e.g. following surgery or myocardial infarction) can give rise to abnormal cardiac function.

(iv) Operations involving the abdomen or pelvis, often result in adhesion between viscera. For instance, adhesions between elements of the gut and the body wall may form and cause twisting in the bowel loop leading to ischaemia, gangrene and the necessity for emergency treatment (untreated they may even be fatal). Likewise, trauma or incisions to the guts can lead to scarring and scar contracture to structures which cause occlusion of the lumen of the guts which again can be life threatening.

(v) Scarring in the pelvis in the region of the fallopian tubes can lead to infertility.

(vi) Scarring following injury to muscles can result in abnormal contraction and hence poor muscular function.

(vii) Scarring or fibrosis following injury to tendons and ligaments can result in serious loss of function.

Related to the above is the fact that there are a number of medical conditions known as fibrotic disorders in which excessive fibrosis leads to pathological derangement and malfunctioning of tissue. Fibrotic disorders are characterised by the accumulation of fibrous tissue (predominately collagens) in an abnormal fashion within the tissue. Accumulation of such fibrous tissues may result from a variety of disease processes. These diseases do not necessarily have to be caused by surgery, traumatic injury or wounding. Fibrotic disorders are usually chronic. Examples of fibrotic disorders include cirrhosis or the liver, liver fibrosis, glomerulonephritis, pulmonary fibrosis, scleroderma, myocardial fibrosis, fibrosis following myocardial infarction, central nervous system fibrosis following a stroke or neuro-degenerative disorders (e.g. Alzheimer's Disease, proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) and arthritis. There is therefore also a need for medicaments which may be used for the treatment of such conditions by regulating (i.e. preventing, inhibiting or reversing) fibrosis/scarring in these fibrotic disorders.

Whilst the above considerations mainly apply to conditions, disorders or diseases of man it will be appreciated that wound healing, scarring and fibrotic disorders can also be problematic in other animals, particularly veterinary or domestic animals (e.g. horses, cattle, dogs, cats etc). For instance abdominal wounds or adhesions are a major reason for having to put down horses (particularly race horses), as are tendon and ligament damage leading to scarring or fibrosis.

There have been several recent developments in the fields of wound healing, scarring and fibrotic disorders. Some of these developments revolve around the recent understanding that an array of cytokines and growth factors are intimately involved in the repair of tissues.

WO-A-92/17206 discloses the use of neutralising agents for fibrosis promoting growth factors that may be used to inhibit scar formation during wound healing. For instance, WO-A-92/17206 demonstrates that compositions which specifically inhibit the activity of Transforming Growth Factors .beta.1 and .beta.2 and Platelet Derived Growth Factor are particularly beneficial for reducing scar formation.

WO-A-93/19769 discloses the use of non-fibrotic growth factors, such as Transforming Growth Factors .beta.3 which was surprisingly found to promote healing of a wound without inducing fibrosis.

GB-A-2,288,118 discloses the use of specific antibodies generated against growth factors that improve healing by potentiating the actions of said growth factors.

Another development involves the use of mannose-6-phosphate for use in treating fibrotic disorders associated with accumulation of extracellular matrix and with elevated levels of Transforming Growth Factors .beta.1 or .beta.2 (GB-A-2,265,310). Mannose-6-phosphate is believed to interfere with the conversion of latent forms of these Transforming Growth Factors into their active form.

Other compositions that influence growth factor efficacy and promote wound healing are disclosed in WO-A-95/26203.

Despite such advances there remains a need to continue to develop medicaments that may be used to modulate the healing of wounds, scarring and fibrosis. In particular there is a need for medicaments which do not compromise the rate of wound healing or quality of scar in favour of one or the other.

As discussed more fully below, the invention relates in its broadest aspect to the use of compounds that modulate actin assembly and organisation for the treatment of wounds.

All eukaryotic cells, whether simple unicellular organisms or cells from human tissue, contain actin. Actin may be found as filamentous actin (F actin) which is a major protein component of the cytoskeleton of the cell. The cytoskeleton influences many cellular functions and is particularly relevant in the regulation of motility, shape changes, chemotaxis and secretion.

F actin is a polymer comprised of a tight helix of uniformly orientated actin monomers. These monomers are expressed in the cell as single polypeptide globular proteins known as globular actin (G actin). Polymerisation of G actin monomers into F actin occurs within the cytoplasm of the cell.

F actin is a dynamic structure and the size of the filament may be regulated, according to the functional needs of the cell. For instance, by altering the rate at which G actin monomers are added or removed from the filament or by inhibiting or promoting F actin degradation. As well as forming part of the cytoskeleton. F actin may also be organised into cellular structures, such as thin filaments in muscle, each of which may have a specific cellular function.

Many regulatory proteins influence F actin assembly and organisation. One such class of these regulatory proteins are those which bind to actin monomers, cap the fast growing end of actin filaments and sever actin filaments. Examples of this class of regulatory proteins include gelsolin, villin, CapG, adseverin, flightless-1 and advillin.

Gelsolin is an 82 kDA protein found naturally in cells such as platelets, fibroblasts, neutrophils and macrophages and can shear in half a 1 .mu.m actin filament in only one second. An academic paper by Witke et al. (Cell vol. 81 p 41-51, 1995) has established using a mouse model which had been engineered so as not to express gelsolin (also known as a Gsn mouse of gelsolin knockout mouse) that the motility of neutrophils and fibroblasts is impaired in vitro and in vivo in cells that do not express gelsolin.

This paper does not contemplate the use of gelsolin and similar compounds for the treatment of wounds and surprisingly the inventors have established that compounds which modulate actin assembly and organisation are useful for wound healing.

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided the use of a compound that modulates actin assembly and organisation intracellularly and/or extracellularly for the manufacture of a medicament for the treatment of wound or fibrosis.

According to a second aspect of the present invention, there is provided a composition comprising a therapeutically effective amount of a compound that modulates actin assembly and organisation intracellularly and/or extracellularly and a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle for the treatment of wounds or fibrosis.

According to a third aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of treating wounds or fibrosis comprising applying to the affected tissue a therapeutically effective amount of a compound which modulates actin assembly and organisation intracellularly and/or extracellularly.

In accordance with the invention, the inventors have established that compounds which modulate actin assembly and organisation may be used to treat wounds to improve the quality of scar formed and also to improve the rate of healing of wounds. The compounds may also be used to treat conditions in which there is inappropriate fibrosis.

The compounds are effective for modulating assembly and organisation of intracellular actin and/or extracellular located actin (which may be released from dead or damaged cells for instance).

Compounds which modulate actin assembly and organisation may be used according to the invention in situations or conditions where scarring needs to be prevented or reduced such as:

(i) where scars of the skin may be excessive and/or detrimental to tissue function and particularly when scar contracture occurs or may occur (for instance skin burns and wounds which impair flexibility of a joint and particularly scarring in children);

(ii) scarring to the skin when cosmetic considerations are important;

(iii) when hypertrophic or keloid scars (particularly in Africo-Caribbean and Mongoloid races) may occur which can cause functional and cosmetic impairment;

(iv) scarring resulting from skin grafts in both donor sites and from the application of artificial skin;

(v) scarring within the central nervous system (e.g. following neuro-surgery or penetrating injuries of the brain), for example, glial scarring can prevent reconnection of severed neurons;

(vi) scarring in the eye and particularly of the cornea (scarring can result in abnormal opacity and lead to problems with vision or even blindness), in the retina (scarring can cause buckling or retinal detachment and consequently blindness) and scarring following wound healing in operations to relieve pressure in glaucoma (e.g. glaucoma filtration surgery which can result in the failure of the surgery whereby the aqueous humour fails to drain and hence the glaucoma returns;

(vii) scarring in the heart (e.g. following surgery or myocardial infarction) which can give rise to abnormal cardiac function;

(viii) scarring of the gut such as may occur following operations involving the abdomen or pelvis that result in adhesion between viscera (adhesions between elements of the gut and the body wall can form and cause twisting in the bowel loop leading to ischaemia, gangrene and the necessity for emergency treatment--untreated they may even be fatal): likewise, trauma or incisions to the guts can lead to scarring and scar contracture or strictures which cause occlusion of the lumen of the guts which again can be life threatening;

(ix) scarring in the pelvis in the region of the fallopian tubes which can lead to infertility;

(x) scarring following injury to muscles which can result in abnormal contraction and hence poor muscular function;

(xi) scarring or fibrosis following injury to tendons and ligaments which can result in serious loss of function.

The compounds may also be used for the treatment or prevention of fibrosis. For instance the compounds may be used to treat fibrotic disorders such as cirrhosis of the liver, liver fibrosis, glomerulonephritis, pulmonary fibrosis, scleroderma, myocardial hibernation, fibrosis following myocardial infarction, central nervous system fibrosis following a stroke or neuro-degenerative disorders (e.g. Alzheimer's Disease), proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) and arthritis.

The compounds are useful for reducing or preventing fibrosis in fibrotic diseases and for reducing or preventing the formation of fibrosis that manifests as hypertrophic scarring or keloids (particularly of the skin).

Compounds which modulate actin assembly and organisation also increase the rate of healing as well as improving scar quality or treating fibrosis. We have found that these compounds are capable of accelerating the rate at which a wound heals. Thus such compounds will be useful for acute wounds (such as penetrative injuries, burns, nerve damage, damaged ligaments or tendons, or even wounds resulting from elective surgery), chronic wounds (such as diabetic, venous, decubitus ulceration and pressure sores) or for generally healing compromised individuals (for example the elderly). The compounds are particularly useful for treating wounds of the skin (i.e. dermal wounds). The abovedescribed wounds can severely influence quality of life or even result in death and therefore the rate of healing may need to be increased as much as is clinically possible.

A most preferred compound for use according to the invention is gelsolin.

The inventors have performed studies which demonstrate that compounds which modulate actin assembly and organisation influence wound healing. For instance, they have found that wound healing is impaired and scar quality reduced in a Gelsolin Knockout Mouse model. Furthermore addition of compounds such as gelsolin from an exogenous source improves scar quality and the rate of wound healing compared to healing observed for untreated wounds.

Further to the Witke et al. paper the inventors have surprisingly found that compounds which modulate actin assembly and organisation are particularly effective for treating wounds to reduce scar formation and also to increase the rate of wound healing. Although the applicants do not wish to be constrained by any hypothesis they believe that the compounds, such as the regulatory protein gelsolin, are effective for reducing scarring because they have found that not only do these compounds modulate the motility of cells but they also influence mobility of the cells within a wound, effect secretion of components of the extracellular matrix and thereby regulate fibrosis and scar formation. The inventors believe these functions are regulated by remodelling F actin within and without these cells. Furthermore the inventors believe that the compounds effect fibroblast orientation within the wound. The orientation of the fibroblasts also influences the nature, organisation and orientation of the extracellular matrix deposited by the fibroblasts and therefore influences the connective tissue scar which repairs the wounded area. The inventors have found that collagen deposition within the matrix is particularly influenced by the compounds. The inventors have also demonstrated that soluble, extracellular gelsolin binds to and clears extracellular actin released from degenerating cells at the wound site and that this clearance of cellular debris may be an important mechanism in accelerating the healing of chronic wounds. The inventors therefore believe that the application to a wound of compounds used according to the invention improves the final quality and appearance of the scar and increases the rate of wound healing as described above.

Whilst gelsolin is the preferred compound other compounds such as villin, CapG, adseverin, flightless-1 and advillin or derivatives thereof may also be used according to the invention.

Compounds used according to the invention may be proteins. Such proteins can easily be modified (for instance by amino acid addition, substitution or deletion) to form derivatives which retain the ability to bind to actin monomers, cap the fast growing end of actin filaments or sever actin filaments. Therefore derivatives which retain functional characteristics of naturally occurring proteins are also preferred compounds of the invention. Examples of such derivatives include functionally active fragments of naturally occurring proteins and even precursors of naturally occurring proteins (e.g. proproteins) which are activated in situ.

Wound healing compositions used according to the invention may take a number of different forms depending, in particular on the manner in which they are to be used. Thus, for example, they may be in the form of a liquid, ointment, cream, gel, hydrogel, powder or aerosol. All of such compositions are suitable for topical application to skin which is a preferred means of administering compounds of the invention to a subject (person or animal) in need of treatment.

The composition may be provided on a sterile dressing or patch which may be used to cover or even pack a wound to be treated. Alternatively the composition of the invention may be an injectable solution or provided as eye drops.

It will be appreciated that the vehicle of the composition of the invention should be one which is well tolerated by the patient and allows release of the active compound to the wound. Such a vehicle is preferably biodegradeable, bioresolveable and/or non-inflammatory.

The composition of the invention may be used in a number of ways. Thus, for example, a composition may be applied in, and/or around a wound of a patient to regulate wound healing. If the composition is to be applied to an "existing" wound, then the pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle will be one which is relatively "mild" i.e. a vehicle which is biocompatible, biodegradable, bioresolvable and non-inflammatory.

It is also possible to use compositions in accordance with the invention prior to surgery (particularly elective surgery so as to provide for regulation of healing of the subsequently formed surgical wound. In this case the vehicle of a topically applied composition may need to be one capable of going across the keratinous layer of the skin. Examples of suitable vehicles for the purpose include dimethyl sulphoxide and acetic acid. Such prophylactic use is a preferred use of compounds according to the invention.

The compositions are suitable to be used for accelerating healing and reducing or controlling scarring resulting form surgical operations on the eye (e.g. laser surgery on the cornea). In this case the composition or medicament may be in the form of an eye drop.

The compositions may be used in a range of internal wound healing applications. Thus for example, the composition may be formulated for inhalation for use in wound healing of the lungs or for the prevention or treatment of fibrosis and strictures in the lung.

It will be appreciated that the amount of a compound that modulates actin assembly and organisation to be applied to the wound site depends on a number of factors such as the biological activity and bioavailability of the compound, which in turn depends on the mode of administration and the physicochemical properties of the compound. Other factors include:

A) The half-life of the compound in the subject being treated.

B) The specific condition to be treated.

C) Whether quick healing or reduced scarring is desired.

D) The age of the subject.

The frequency of administration will also be influenced by the above mentioned factors and particularly the half-life of the compound within the subject being treated.

Generally when the compositions are used to treat existing wounds or fibrotic disorders the compound should be administered as soon as the wound has occurred or the disorder has been diagnosed. Therapy with the composition should continue until the wound has healed to a clinicians satisfaction or, in the case of a fibrotic disorder, the risk or cause of abnormal fibrous tissue formation has been removed.

Compositions for promoting the rate of wound healing should be applied to a wound as soon as possible after the wound has formed. For acute wounds and wounds of subjects who are healing competent (e.g. the young) application of the composition will ideally be at the time of wounding, preferably within hours of wounding and no longer than a few days post-wounding. For chronic wounds or wounds in the healing compromised (e.g. the elderly) administration should be as soon as possible.

Compositions which modulate scarring and/or fibrotic disorders should also be applied to a wound as soon as possible after the wound has formed. However scars and fibrosis can develop over days or even weeks. Therefore the subject being treated may well benefit by administration of a compound (such as gelsolin) even if it is administered days or even weeks after the wound occurred or the disorder developed (or was diagnosed).

When used as a prophylactic (e.g. before surgery or when there is a risk of developing a fibrotic disorder) the compositions should be administered as soon as the risk of undesirable fibrosis or a potential for a poor rate of wound healing has been recognised (as may be the case in elderly subjects). For instance, a cream or ointment containing gelsolin may be applied to a site on the skin of subject where elective surgery is to be performed and an increased rate of wound healing is subsequently desired. In this case, the composition may be applied during the preoperative preparation of the subject or it may even be desirable to apply the composition in the hours or days preceding the surgery (depending upon the health status and age of subject as well as the size of the wound to be formed).

Frequency of administration will depend upon the biological half-life of the compound used. Typically a cream or ointment containing a compound should be administered to a target tissue such that the concentration of the compound at the wound site or tissue affected by a fibrotic disorder is maintained at a level suitable for having a therapeutic effect. This may require administration daily or even several times daily.

Known procedures, such as those conventionally employed by the pharmaceutical industry (e.g. in vivo experimentation, clinical trials etc), may be used to establish specific formulations of compositions and precise therapeutic regimes (such as daily doses of the compounds and the frequency of administration).

Generally, compositions in accordance with the invention will contain 50-1000 nM of the compound (e.g. gelsolin), most preferably 100-500 nM.

Purely by way of example a composition containing 100-500 .mu.g/ml of gelsolin is suitable for application to an existing (i.e. "open") wound.

By way of further example, a composition which is to be used preoperatively to prevent scarring occurring or improve the rate of healing of a wound resulting from subsequent surgery may contain 500-1000 nM of gelsolin to have the desired effect on wound healing.

A suitable daily dose of a compound which modulates actin assembly and organisation depend upon the factors discussed above as well as upon the size of the wound, or amount of tissue effected by fibrosis, which is to be treated. Typically the amount of a compound required for the treatment of wounds or fibrotic disorders will be within the range of 1 ng to 100 g of the active compound/24 hours depending upon the size of the wound or extent of fibrosis amongst several other factors.

It will also be appreciated that compounds used according to the invention may be isolated from nature or chemically synthesised. Such compounds need not be proteins or even structurally similar to naturally occurring proteins but nevertheless have the same effects on actin assembly and organisation. These compounds are also preferred compounds for use according to the invention.

Proteins and derivatives thereof which are used as compounds for modulating actin assembly and organisation may be prepared by any convenient method, including peptide ligation and complete protein synthesis. Alternatively they may be purified from natural sources. For instance gelsolin may be isolated from neutrophils, platelets or fibroblasts expressing the protein (e.g. by the methods of Bryan J. Methods in Enzymology vol 215 p 88-99, Academic Press, London 1992).

A preferred manner of preparing protein and derivatives thereof for use in the invention is by expression from a recombinant DNA system.

Recombinant DNA technology provides a convenient means by which sufficient quantities of such proteins and derivatives thereof may be formed for use in the manufacture of medicaments in desirable quantities.

Many known methods of administering compounds to a relevant tissue have the disadvantage that it can be difficult to achieve sustained levels of the active compound at a wound site or site of fibrosis over the course of even a few days because the active agents usually have very short half-lives in vivo. The half-lives of the compounds tend to be short for a number of reasons which include:

(i) Degradation by proteases and the like.

(ii) Clearance by binding proteins (e.g. .alpha.2 macroglobulin).

(iii) Binding and inhibition of agent activity by extracellular matrix molecules such as decorin and fibronectin.

Furthermore, compounds for wound healing and/or treatment of scarring/fibrosis need to be administered in a suitable vehicle and are often provided as a composition comprising the compound and the vehicle. As outlined above, such vehicles are preferably non-inflammatory, biocompatible, bioresorbable and must not degrade or inactivate the active compound (in storage or in use). However, it can often be difficult to provide a satisfactory vehicle for delivering specific compounds to a tissue to be treated.

A convenient way in which these problems can be obviated or mitigated is to provide at a wound site (or site of fibrosis) a therapeutically effective, wound healing amount of a compound that modulates actin assembly and organisation by gene therapy.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided a delivery system for use in a gene therapy technique, said delivery system comprising a DNA molecule encoding for a protein which modulates actin assembly and organisation, said DNA molecule being capable of being transcribed to lead to the expression of said protein.

According to a fifth aspect or the present invention there is provided the use of a delivery system as defined in the preceding paragraph for use in the manufacture of a medicament for use in the treatment of wounds or fibrosis.

According to a sixth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of treating a wounds or fibrosis comprising administering to a patient in need of treatment a therapeutically effective amount of a delivery system as defined for the fourth aspect of the invention.

The delivery systems according to the invention are highly suitable for achieving sustained levels of a compound which modulates actin assembly and organisation at a wound site or site of fibrosis over a longer period of time than is possible for most conventional delivery systems. Protein may be continuously expressed from cells at the wound site or site of fibrosis that have been transformed with the DNA molecule of the invention. Therefore, even if the protein has a very short half-life as an agent in vivo, therapeutically effective amounts of the protein may be continuously expressed from the treated tissue.

Furthermore, the delivery system of the invention may be used to provide the DNA molecule (and thereby the protein which is an active therapeutic agent) without the need to conventional pharmaceutical vehicles such as those required in ointments or creams that are contacted with the wound.

The delivery system of the present invention is such that the DNA molecule is capable of being expressed (when the delivery system is administered to a patient) to produce a protein which directly or indirectly has activity for wound healing and/or treatment of fibrosis or scarring by modulating actin assembly and organisation. By "directly" we mean that the product of gene expression per se has the required activity for wound healing and/or regulating fibrosis or scarring. By "indirectly" we mean that the product of gene expression undergoes or mediates (e.g. as an enzyme) at least one further reaction to provide an agent effective for wound healing and/or regulating fibrosis or scarring by modulating actin assembly and organisation.

It is preferred that the DNA molecule codes for gelsolin or a biologically fragment or derivative thereof. The DNA molecule may also code for compounds such as villin, CapG, adseverin, flightless-1 and advillin or derivatives thereof. Alternatively the DNA molecule may code for a protein which indirectly increases expression of compounds such as gelsolin. For instance, the DNA molecule may code for an enzyme, transcription factor or the like which promote expression of gelsolin.

The DNA molecule may be contained within a suitable vector to form a recombinant vector. The vector may for example be a plasmid, cosmid or phage. Such recombinant vectors are highly useful in the delivery systems of the invention for transforming cells with the DNA molecule.

Recombinant vectors may also include other functional elements. For instance, recombinant vectors may be designed such that the vector will autonomously replicate in the nucleus of the cell. In this case, elements which induce DNA replication may be required in the recombinant vector. Alternatively the recombinant vector may be designed such that the vector and recombinant DNA molecule integrates into the genome of a cell. In this case DNA sequences which favour targeted integration (e.g. by homologous recombination) are desirable. Recombinant vectors may also have DNA coding for genes that may be used as selectable markers in the cloning process.

The recombinant vector may also further comprise a promoter or regulator to control expression of the gene as required.

The DNA molecule may (but not necessarily) be one which becomes incorporated in the DNA of cells of the subject being treated. Undifferentiated cells may be stably transformed leading to the production of genetically modified daughter cells. When this is the case, regulation of expression in the subject may be required e.g. with specific transcription factors, gene activators or more preferably with inducable promoters which transcribe the gene in response to a signal specifically found at a wound site. Alternatively, the delivery system may be designed to favour unstable or transient transformation of differentiated cells in the subject being treated. In this instance, regulation of expression may be less important because expression of the DNA molecule will stop when the transformed cells die or stop expressing the protein (ideally when the wound, fibrosis or scarring has been treated or prevented).

The delivery system may provide the DNA molecule to the subject without it being incorporated in a vector. For instance, the DNA molecule may be incorporated within a liposome or virus particle. Alternatively the "naked" DNA molecule may be inserted into a subject's cells by a suitable means e.g. direct endocytotic uptake.

The DNA molecule may be transferred to the cells of a subject to be treated by transfection, infection, microinjection, cell fusion, protoplast fusion or ballistic bombardment. For example, transfer may be by ballistic transfection with coated gold particles, liposomes containing the DNA molecule, viral vectors (e.g. adenovirus) and means of providing direct DNA uptake (e.g. endocytosis) by application of plasmid DNA directly to the wounded area topically or by injection.

The protein expressed from the DNA molecule may be one which directly or indirectly provides for wound healing reduced scarring, one which provides an increase in the rate of wound healing whilst possibly resulting in increased scar formation or one which serves to regulate (inhibit, prevent or reverse) fibrosis.
 

Claim 1 of 5 Claims

1. A method of reducing scar formation in incisional dermal wounds, the method comprising delivering directly to a dermal wound in need of such treatment a therapeutically effect amount of a regulatory protein that caps the fast growing end of actin filaments and/or severs capped actin filaments so that said scar formation is reduced.

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