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Wound Repair Regen. 2008 Sep-Oct;16(5):682-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-475X.2008.00418.x.

Exogenous metallothionein-IIA promotes accelerated healing after a burn wound.

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  • 1School of Animal Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.


Severe injury to the epidermal barrier often results in scarring and life-long functional deficits, the outcome worsening with a number of factors including time taken to heal. We have investigated the potential of exogenous metallothionein IIA (Zn(7)-MT-IIA), a naturally occurring small cysteine-rich protein, to accelerate healing of burn wounds in a mouse model. Endogenous MT-I/II expression increased in basal keratinocytes concurrent with reepithelialization after a burn injury, indicating a role for MT-I/II in wound healing. In vitro assays of a human keratinocyte cell line indicated that, compared with saline controls, exogenous Zn(7)-MT-IIA significantly increased cell viability by up to 30% (p<0.05), decreased apoptosis by 13% (p<0.05) and promoted keratinocyte migration by up to 14% (p<0.05), all properties that may be desirable to promote rapid wound repair. Further in vitro assays using immortalized and primary fibroblasts indicated that Zn7-MT-IIA did not affect fibroblast motility or contraction (p>0.05). Topical administration of exogenous Zn(7)-MT-IIA (2 microg/mL) in vivo, immediately postburn accelerated healing, promoted faster reepithelialization (3 days: phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), 8.9+/-0.3 mm diameter vs. MT-I/II, 7.1+/-0.7 mm; 7 days: PBS 5.8+/-0.98 mm vs. MT-I/II, 3.6+/-1.0 mm, p<0.05) and reduced epidermal thickness (MT-I/II: 45+/-4 microm vs. PBS: 101+/-19 microm, p<0.05) compared with controls. Our data suggest that exogenous Zn(7)-MT-IIA may prove a valuable therapeutic for patients with burns and other skin injuries.

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