Accelerated wound healing in mice by on-site production and delivery of CXCL12 by transformed lactic acid bacteria
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Impaired wound closure is a growing medical problem associated with metabolic diseases and aging. Immune cells play important roles in wound healing by following instructions from the microenvironment. Here, we developed a technology to bioengineer the wound microenvironment and enhance healing abilities of the immune cells. This resulted in strongly accelerated wound healing and was achieved by transforming Lactobacilli with a plasmid encoding CXCL12. CXCL12-delivering bacteria administrated topically to wounds in mice efficiently enhanced wound closure by increasing proliferation of dermal cells and macrophages, and led to increased TGF-β expression in macrophages. Bacteria-produced lactic acid reduced the local pH, which inhibited the peptidase CD26 and consequently enhanced the availability of bioactive CXCL12. Importantly, treatment with CXCL12-delivering Lactobacilli also improved wound closure in mice with hyperglycemia or peripheral ischemia, conditions associated with chronic wounds, and in a human skin wound model. Further, initial safety studies demonstrated that the topically applied transformed bacteria exerted effects restricted to the wound, as neither bacteria nor the chemokine produced could be detected in systemic circulation. Development of drugs accelerating wound healing is limited by the proteolytic nature of wounds. Our technology overcomes this by on-site chemokine production and reduced degradation, which together ensure prolonged chemokine bioavailability that instructed local immune cells and enhanced wound healing.