Background: Topical silicone gel has shown promise in the treatment of hypertrophic and keloid scars. However, its mechanism of action remains undetermined.
Objective: To investigate whether the presence of silicone alters the secretion of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), a key cytokine involved in the scar formation process.
Design: Serum-free fibroblast cell cultures were established from normal, keloid, and fetal skin, which heals without scarring, and exposed to silicone gel. Serial cell counts were performed, and supernatants were collected for bFGF quantification by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay at 4, 24, 72, and 120 hours.
Results: Growth curves were similar and no statistically significant differences in population doubling times were observed between treated and untreated specimens. Statistically significant differences in bFGF levels between treated and untreated normal fibroblasts were observed at 24, 72, and 120 hours after cell culture initiation. Differences in bFGF levels between treated and untreated fetal fibroblasts that approached statistical significance were observed at 72 and 120 hours.
Conclusions: These results suggest that silicone gel is responsible for increased bFGF levels in normal and fetal dermal fibroblasts. We postulate that silicone gel treats and prevents hypertrophic scar tissue, which contains histologically normal fibroblasts, by modulating expression of growth factors such as bFGF. Our data support the hypothesis that substances that favorably influence wound healing do so by correcting a deficiency or overabundance of the growth factors that orchestrate the tissue repair process.