Topical synthetic epidermal growth factor serum moderately improved the appearance of atrophic acne scars in a small pilot study.

At the end of 12 weeks of twice-daily application, scar appearance improved from 2.875 to 2.38 points on a 5-point investigator global assessment scale. Mean Goodman and Baron acne scar grade fell from 3.00 to 2.75, with 3 representing moderate disease and 2 mild disease. Of eight pairs of before and after photographs given to a blinded investigator, posttreatment images were correctly identified in five. Two were assessed as 76%-100% improved, and three were assessed as 50%-75% improved (J Drugs Dermatol. 2015;14[9]:1005-1010).

The patients were an average of 38 years old, split about equally between the sexes, and racially diverse. They used a basic facial cleanser during the study, but were banned from using tretinoin and other topicals.

Previously studied topicals don’t do much for acne scars, so the usual go-to treatments are chemical peels, dermabrasion, resurfacing lasers, and percutaneous collagen needling. They all work in part by promoting collagen synthesis, but at the cost of pain and side effects. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) also promotes collagen synthesis, so the investigators thought it might help. The EGF used in the study – DNA Regeneration Serum , derived from barley – was supplied by its maker, DNA EGF Renewal in Los Angeles.

“The findings suggest EGF serum has the potential to be a modern, noninvasive treatment for an otherwise highly refractory condition. Whereas resurfacing procedures rely on skin injury to trigger [EGF] release, direct topical application offers the effects of EGF without the associated discomfort and recovery time,” said Dr. Ronald L. Moy of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and Rachel Seidel, a medical student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“All subjects in this study [also] noted improvements in skin texture, fine lines, and wrinkles, while the vast majority also saw a reduction in brown and age spots,” they said.

The investigators said they are interested next in seeing if topical EGF prevents scars in active acne. “We believe that, by counteracting collagen degradation during the course of the inflammatory response, significant tissue atrophy capable of causing visible scarring may be prevented,” they said.

Dr. Moy owns stock in DNA EGF Renewal and is the company’s scientific adviser.