Discovery may accelerate healing of diabetic wounds

Scientists have discovered a method that can start and accelerate healing of diabetic wounds, according to Umeå University in Sweden.

Umeå researchers proved that the well-known protein plasminogen starts and initiates wound healing. Plasminogen is a protein in the blood that's produced in the liver and found in all bodily fluids.

They found that the concentration of plasminogen increases dramatically in and around wounds. This signals the body to start the inflammatory reaction required for healing.

With diabetic wounds, however, the plasminogen level does not increase in the same way. This is why the wounds in diabetic people do not heal as well.

Plasminogen stimulates healing process

Researchers were able to stimulate the healing process in diabetic mice and rats by injecting plasminogen around the wound. This allowed the wounds to heal fully.

Diabetic wounds that do not heal are the most severe type of chronic wounds, according to Umeå. Many diabetes patients develop foot ulcers, with 10 to 15 million cases worldwide leading to amputation.

Currently, there is no medication to treat diabetic wounds. Therapy includes traditional wound care with compresses and bandages.

Since plasminogen is an endogenous protein, scientists are hopeful that medicine using plasminogen would not produce side effects in patients.

Scientists have completed most of the preclinical research needed to develop a medicine. They have developed a cell line for producing plasminogen on a larger scale. They hope to begin clinical testing once funding is arranged.

Plasminogen has other potential applications

This pro-inflammatory activator has significant potential for working on other types of wounds as well. These include tympanic membrane perforations and periodontitis, according to Umeå.

Plasminogen has also been shown to be effective in combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MSRA.

Diabetes wounds and foot amputations

People with diabetes can suffer serious foot problems. Risk factors include nerve damage that can deform or misshape feet. This causes pressure points that create blisters, sores or ulcers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Poor circulation is also common in diabetes, and can make injuries slow to heal. This can lead to infections and ultimately the amputation of a toe, foot or leg.

Foot and leg amputations occurred in 4 out of every 1,000 US adults with diabetes in 2008, according to the CDC. This compares to 11 out of every 1,000 in 1996.

Better management of risk factors has reduced the rate of amputations. Still, non-injury amputations are eight times higher among people with diabetes than adults without the disease.

Source: Umeå University, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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