Healing Pressure Ulcers with Nerve Growth Factor

Pressure ulcers seem to heal faster with a daily topical solution of nerve growth factor, according to a study conducted at a teaching nursing home in Fontecchio, Italy. Nerve growth factor has been shown to stimulate the production of vascular endothelial growth factor.

Researchers randomly assigned 36 patients, who had had skin ulcers for an average of 13 days, to either regular treatment (e.g., being turned in bed, using pressure-relieving mattresses, or receiving daily local care), or regular treatment along with a solution of murine nerve growth factor. At the baseline examination, three patients in each group had stage 2 ulcers; nine in the treatment group and 13 in the control group had stage 3 ulcers; five in the treatment group and one in the control group had stage 4 ulcers; and one in each group had stage 5 ulcers.

After six weeks of treatment, the mean area of ulcers in the treatment group was reduced by 738 mm2, to 274 mm2. In contrast, the ulcer areas were reduced by 485 mm2, to 526 mm2 in the control group. Epithelial tissue growing from the margin toward the center of the ulcer was already visible in all patients in the treatment group within two weeks after treatment began. Within four weeks, the total area was reduced by nearly 50% in all ulcers in the treatment group. Two patients in the treatment group were completely healed within three weeks, and eight were completely healed within six weeks.
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By comparison, only one patient in the control group healed completely within three weeks. In addition, pressure ulcers improved by three or more stages in five patients in the treatment group but in none of the patients in the control group. Eight patients in the control group showed no improvement at all.

None of the patients in the treatment group experienced systemic or local side effects during treatment with either nerve growth factor or conventional therapy.