Sunday, May 1, 2016

Genetically Modified Maggots Could Speed Up Wound Healing

Currently in the USA, 29 million people suffer from diabetes, a chronic and far-reaching disease. Among many things, diabetes effects circulation and wound healing, specifically in the peripheral limbs (ex: feet and hands). Therefore, what would be just a blister on a non-diabetic patients often becomes a foot sore, and in some cases amputation, in a patient with diabetes. 

Currently, one of the go-to treatments for foot ulcers is maggot debridement therapy. This treatment involves introducing sterile green bottle fly maggots into the wound. These maggots eat the dead tissue, while also depositing antimicrobial secretions, which keeps the wound from getting any further infected.

However, although maggot debridement therapy is fairly quick and cheap, the treatment does not speed up the healing, which with diabetes, time is of the essence. Scientists are now experimenting with genetically modified maggots, which could cut the healing time in half. This is accomplished by modifying the maggots to secrete human platelet derived growth factor-BB (PDGF-BB) in addition to their own antimicrobial secretions.

Although on the surface, using maggots sounds old-fashioned and disgusting, the implementation of genetically-modified maggots would be revolutionary. It is cheap, effective and the demand is there and growing. The next step would be to test the effectiveness on wounds in animals, my guess rats. If these show success, then next would be clinical trials with human test subjects. If successful, this new form of maggot therapy could help treat many conditions, such as bedsores and burns, that are currently treated with maggots, even more efficiently.


  1. This is extremely fascinating. I feel like scientifically we are advanced enough to skip the stage of maggots. Even tying back to diabetes, insulin is administered by modifying viruses to contain the synthetic insulin. Perhaps modified bacteria would be a better method of administration, with the same PDGF-BB in mind. Additionally bacteria has faster reproduction and would eliminate any social stigma.

    Yes, maggots may be a cheap alternative presently, but I can see a diverse range of therapy when funds are invested into bacterial genetic modification for treatment.

  2. This article reminded me that "old fashion" healing techniques still hold merit in medicine. Many people in today's society are rather turned off by the fact of maggots healing a wound. However, if the maggots can eat the dead tissue and disinfect at the same time. Then, trying to genetically modify them to speed up healing should be continued to be research. Because as you said time is of the essence when it comes to diabetes.

  3. Such an excellent example of how science is able to build on itself and incorporate old technology with the new. Genetics in particular will be able to revisit many old concepts and reconstruct them to provide technologies we can use for today's problems.

  4. This type of treatment reminds me of how they use leeches to help preserve skin grafts and assist with circulation. Usually you would think that these creatures are harmful and offer no benefit to us, however, it seems that they can be utilized and combined with current medical technology to make for better treatment. Extremely interesting article.