A genetically engineered substance called epidermal growth factor accelerated the healing of wounds in 12 people, a team headed by Gregory L. Brown of the University of Louisville in Kentucky reported in July. The demonstration marked the first time that such a substance, which belongs to a large family of naturally occurring growth factors, has been found to be effective in humans.
The 12 individuals required skin grafts for various reasons, primarily because of burns. One site on each patient was treated with the growth factor while a second site was not. The treated sites healed, on average, about 1.5 days faster than the untreated sites. Physicians believe the growth factor may be particularly valuable in treating patients with severe burns or chronic wounds, such as bedsores and foot ulcers.