Changing the Wound: Covalent Immobilization of the Epidermal Growth Factor

Vijaykrishna Raghunathan, Shin Ae Park, Nihar M. Shah, Christopher Michael Reilly, Leandro Teixeira, Richard Dubielzig, Yow Ren Chang, Monica J. Motta, Michael J. Schurr, Jonathan F. McAnulty, R. Rivkah Isseroff, Nicholas L. Abbott, Christopher J. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Re-epithelialization of wounds is a critical element of wound closure. Growth factors have been used in combination with conventional wound management to promote closure, but the method of delivery has been limited to the topical application of ointment formulations. Cytoactive factors delivered in this way have short resident times in wounds and have met with limited success. Here, we demonstrate that methods used to covalently immobilize proteins on synthetic materials can be extended to immobilize cytoactive factors such as the epidermal growth factor (EGF) onto the wound beds of genetically diabetic mice that exhibit impaired healing. Full-thickness splinted excisional wounds were created in diabetic (db/db) mice with a well-defined silicone splint to limit wound contracture. Wound surfaces were treated with a reducing agent to expose sulfhydryl groups and subsequently treated with EGF modified with a heterobifunctional crosslinker. This allowed for the covalent immobilization of the EGF to the wound surface. The conjugation chemistry was validated in vitro and in vivo. In a separate group of mice, wounds were topically treated twice daily with soluble EGF. The mice were evaluated over 11 days for wound closure. This covalent immobilization strategy resulted in EGF being retained on the wound surface for 2 days and significantly increased epithelial wound closure by 20% compared to wounds treated with topical EGF or topical vehicle. Covalent immobilization was not only therapeutically effective but also delivered a markedly reduced load of growth factor to the wound surface compared to topical application (when only 180 ng of EGF was immobilized onto the wound surface in comparison with 7200 ng of topically applied EGF over a period of 11 days). No adverse effects were observed in treated wounds. Results obtained provide proof of concept for the effectiveness of covalent immobilization in the treatment of dysregulated wounds. The covalent immobilization of cytoactive factors represents a potentially transformative approach to the management of difficult chronic wounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2649-2660
Number of pages12
JournalACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 14 2021


  • bioconjugation
  • covalent immobilization
  • diabetes
  • epidermal growth factor
  • wound healing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Changing the Wound: Covalent Immobilization of the Epidermal Growth Factor'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this