A reliable means to safely accelerate natural healing would be a generally useful technology for all stages of life, but it is the elderly who suffer the most due to slower and more dysfunctional healing of even minor injuries:
An experimental therapy cut in half the time it takes to heal wounds compared to no treatment at all. Researchers discovered that an enzyme called fidgetin-like 2 (FL2) puts the brakes on skin cells as they migrate towards wounds to heal them. They reasoned that the healing cells could reach their destination faster if their levels of FL2 could be reduced. So they developed a drug that inactivates the gene that makes FL2 and then put the drug in tiny gel capsules called nanoparticles and applied the nanoparticles to wounds on mice. The treated wounds healed much faster than untreated wounds. "We envision that our nanoparticle therapy could be used to speed the healing of all sorts of wounds, including everyday cuts and burns, surgical incisions, and chronic skin ulcers, which are a particular problem in the elderly and people with diabetes."
The wound-healing therapy uses molecules of silencing RNA (siRNAs) specific for FL2. The siRNAs act to silence genes. They do so by binding to a gene's messenger RNA (mRNA), preventing the mRNA from being translated into proteins (in this case, the enzyme FL2). However, siRNAs on their own won't be effectively taken up by cells, particularly inside a living organism. They will be quickly degraded unless they are put into some kind of delivery vehicle, and so the researchers collaborated with another group who had developed nanoparticles that protect molecules such as siRNA from being degraded as they ferry the molecules to their intended targets. The nanoparticles with their siRNA cargoes were then tested by topically applying them to mice with either skin excisions or burns. In both cases, the wounds closed more than twice as fast as in untreated controls. "Not only did the cells move into the wounds faster, but they knew what to do when they got there. We saw normal, well-orchestrated regeneration of tissue, including hair follicles and the skin's supportive collagen network."