The power to heal

Dampened cellular electrical signals look to be the cause of abnormal wound healing in patients with diabetes

17 Jun 2016 by Olivia Wannan

Diabetes wound on the eyeWound healing in people’s cornea and skin is triggered by electrical signals – and interference with this mechanism seems to partly explain why patients with diabetes experience slower healing.

This discovery, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is based on electrical signals measured in the corneas of mice with induced diabetes or fed a temporary high-fat diet.

University of California, Davis, researcher, Dr Brian Reid, told OT that: “While at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, we used a rat cornea [study] to show a positive correlation between the wound’s electric signal and wound healing.”

Dr Reid explained that the research team, which included dermatology professor, Dr Min Zhao, then looked at the implications of this knowledge for diabetes at the University of California, Davis.

“Diabetic corneal wounds have significantly reduced electric signal. This, combined with corneal cells’ slower migration in high glucose, as seen in diabetic patients, contributed to the slower wound healing we observed,” Dr Reid highlighted.

The team is confident that there is a way to boost the already-present electrical signals in human cells – by using a drug known as aminophylline.

“We suggest the development of new eye drops containing analgesics for pain relief, but also aminophylline to enhance the corneal wound electric signal and promote wound healing, especially in elderly or diabetic patients prone to chronic wounds and corneal ulcers.

“A clinical trial of these drops in human patients would be an exciting move forward,” Dr Reid concluded.

Image credit: Iceclanl

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