1. The availability of recombinant epidermal growth factor provides a potentially exciting development for the treatment of gastrointestinal ulceration. However, because of its potent mitogenic activity, there is a need for strategies which reduce the dose required. Intestinal trefoil factor stimulates mucosal healing without increasing proliferation. Studies were undertaken to examine the biological effects of rat intestinal trefoil factor and/or human epidermal growth factor upon gastrointestinal epithelial cell functions pertinent to mucosal protection, using two wounding models.
2. The study of epithelial restitution in vitro demonstrated a marked synergistic effect on the rate of migration of the wound edge when intestinal trefoil factor was used in combination with epidermal growth factor. There was no increased cellular proliferation due to the addition of intestinal trefoil factor to the cells when given alone, or to the stimulatory effect of cells treated with epidermal growth factor. In the rat model of gastric ulceration, the presence of both epidermal growth factor and intestinal trefoil factor protected against the development of indomethacin-induced gastric lesions.
3. We conclude that combination therapy of epidermal growth factor with intestinal trefoil factor could provide a more potent, safer approach to the treatment of human gastrointestinal ulceration.