The genetically modified green bottle fly larvae, also known as Lucilia sericata, have been shown to produce and secrete the human platelet derived growth factor-BB (PDGF-BB) that encourages cell growth and wound healing. These maggots are an upgrade from the current maggot debridement therapy (MDT), which has not been proven to shorten the wound healing process.

The researchers from the North Carolina State University, in collaboration with NC State and Massey University in New Zealand, employed two techniques to extract PDGF-BB from the green bottle fly maggots. One involved subjecting the larvae at 37 degrees Celsius heat shock for three hours and another involved feeding the maggots with a diet that did not contain tetracycline, an antibiotic used for urinary tract infection, acne, chlamydia and others.

The human growth factor was only found in certain structures within the larvae but not in the insects’ excretions or secretions after the heat shock. Hence, the team figured that the heat-inducible system does not have any use for any clinical applications.

Diabetic patients with non-healing foot ulcers can benefit from this therapy. Photo from

Diabetic patients with non-healing foot ulcers can benefit from this therapy. Photo from

However, the researchers found that the larvae that were not raised with the tetracycline diet secreted and excreted high levels of the platelet derived growth factor-BB. The research team says that this could be a potentially improved approach to treating and healing wounds.

For many years, experts have employed the maggot debridement therapy to treat non-healing wounds. Many patients, especially those with diabetic foot ulcers, have benefited from this FDA-approved cost-effective treatment.

Still, this has not been proven to decrease the time it takes for the wounds to heal. So, these enhanced maggots developed by this new study’s researchers solve this problem, helping those in need and those who do not have access to treatment.

“A vast majority of people with diabetes live in low or middle-income countries, with less access to expensive treatment options,” says researcher Max Scott, an NC State professor of entomology. “We see this as a proof-of-principle study for the future development of engineered L. sericata strains that express a variety of growth factors and anti-microbial peptides with the long-term aim of developing a cost-effective means for wound treatment that could save people from amputation and other harmful effects of diabetes,” Scott adds.