Yuichi Oike of Keio University in Japan and colleagues initially engineered mice that express large amounts of a protein known as angiopoietin-related growth factor (AGF) in order to study its role in forming blood vessels. The resulting animals had swollen ears, noses and eyelids that were reddish in color and contained a greater number of blood vessels in the dermis layer of skin compared to controls. In general, the mutant mice also had much thicker skin than the normal animals did. But of particular note was the ability of the animals to recover from lacerations incredibly quickly, the scientists report. Two-millimeter wide holes punched in the animals' ears healed completely within 28 days.
The team detected unusually high concentrations of AGF around the wound sites, indicating that the protein aids in recovery. The authors posit that AGF increases skin cell formation and boosts blood flow to the region. Looking forward, the researchers plan to investigate knockout mice lacking the gene that produces AGF to further define its role. Understanding AGF's biological function, they assert, "could lead to novel therapeutic strategies for wound care and epidermal regenerative medicine."