Touching Lives - February 2007
Improving wound healing for diabetes
Researchers already know that the way cells communicate is crucial to the wound healing process, and that in diabetic wounds, cell to cell communication is abnormal, which may contribute to slow healing.
Dr David Becker and his colleagues at University College London have shown that they can modify communication between cells in a wound by applying a bioactive gel they’ve developed called Nexagon. In laboratory tests, Nexagon, the first gel of its kind, was seen to speed up healing and reduce scarring in a variety of fresh cuts and burns in healthy tissue.
With their new Action Medical Research grant of £153,730, Dr Becker and his co-worker Dr Ariadna Mendoza will be studying laboratory models of both intact and wounded diabetic skin. They hope to find out more about the process of diabetic wound healing, looking particularly at the ‘gap junction channels’ through which the cells communicate. They will investigate whether the gel improves the rate of healing, and try to find the most appropriate dosage and timing of administration.
Slow healing wounds are a very real problem for people with diabetes, and foot ulcers are particularly common. Affecting one in six diabetics, they are often very slow to heal and even when they do, tend to recur. Foot ulcers cause significant pain and discomfort and, requiring daily dressings by experienced nurses, are a major drain on NHS resources.
In the UK, more than one in ten foot ulcers results in amputation. One hundred diabetics undergo this devastating procedure every week. Drs Becker and Mendoza expect their three-year study to show whether Nexagon promotes wound healing in diabetic skin, and if the results are positive, they plan to move to clinical trials as soon as possible. They hope, in the longer term, to develop an effective treatment for these distressing wounds.