Speed Up the Healing

Researchers identify new approach for treatment of slow healing wounds

(RxWiki News) Researchers have discovered a new approach for treating slow-to-heal wounds such bed sores, chronic ulcers, and diabetic wounds.

Loyola University Health System researchers found that suppressing specific immune cells may speed up the healing process.

The targeted cells are called neutrophils and natural killer T (NKT) cells. Neutrophils and NKT cells are white blood cells that kill bacteria and germs that can cause infections.

Both types of these white blood cells act to protect the body, yet both can also slow the healing process. When a person is wounded, natural killer T cells respond to the injury by producing certain proteins that attract other white blood cells, such as neutrophils, to the wound.

Neutrophils work by destroying harmful bacteria and cleaning up dead cells. However, they can also end up digesting surrounding tissues, which then causes slower healing and extra scar tissue. Consequently, as a previous Loyola University study showed, the presence of active natural killer T cells can slow down the healing process, while wounds heal faster in the absence of these cells.

According to senior author Elizabeth Kovacs, Ph.D., director of research in Loyola University's Burn & Shock Trauma Institute, the suppression of neutrophils and NKT cells may help reduce the number of chronic, non-healing wounds, and thus reduce both the number of infectious complications and the health care costs associated with such complications.

Bed sores and diabetic foot ulcers are not uncommon. Any diabetic is at risk of foot ulcers. However, Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, and older men have a greater risk of developing foot ulcers. Bed sores - which form when sustained pressure cuts off circulation to certain parts of the body - are common among people living with paralysis, but also affect anyone who is bedridden, uses a wheelchair, or cannot change positions without help.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Dr. Ralph and Marian C. Falk Medical Research Trust. The findings are published in the February 2011 issue of Expert Reviews in Dermatology.

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Review Date: 
February 9, 2011