Experimental Approach May Lead To Improved Treatment of Diabetic Wounds
Loyola University Health System researchers are reporting on a promising new approach to treating diabetic wounds. The researchers have discovered that it may be possible to speed up the healing process by suppressing certain immune system cells, researchers wrote in the February 2011, issue of the journal Expert Review of Dermatology.
“The cells are called neutrophils and natural killer T (NKT) cells. These white blood cells act to kill bacteria and other germs that can infect wounds. NKT cells also recruit other white blood cells to the site of injury. But in some cases, these NKT cells can do more harm than good,” said senior author Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD, director of research in Loyola's Burn & Shock Trauma Institute.
Neutrophils can be beneficial to wound healing by destroying the harmful bacteria and accumulations of dead cells. However, neutrophils also cause harm by producing enzymes that digest the healthy tissue surrounding the wound, which commonly leads to an extreme amount of scar tissue that slows down the healing process.
"It's a balancing act. You need neutrophils, but not too many of them," said Aleah Brubaker, first author of the article and an MD/PhD student at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. The third co-author is Dr. David Schneider, a surgical resident at Loyola.
Natural Killer T Cells (NKT)
The natural killer T cells or NKT cells respond to wound injuries by producing proteins called cytokines and chemokines that attract neutrophils and other white blood cells to the wound site. “A previous study at Loyola demonstrated that the presence of activated NKT cells slows down the healing process, while the absence of these cells leads to faster wound closure.”
If treatment is received early enough in high-risk diabetics, using the therapeutic strategies mentioned above doctors may be able to decrease the incidence and prevalence of chronic, non-healing wounds and reduce complications caused by the infections such as amputations.