Stem cell treatment could accelerate diabetic wound healing

There's no question that diabetes is on the rise worldwide. In the U.S., about 26 million children are diabetic, and roughly 347 million people across the globe have the disease. The World Health Organization estimates that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030. Up to 25% of this population will get a foot ulcer at some point in their life.

These ulcers are often difficult to treat because diabetes impairs wound healing, and patients sometimes have to undergo traumatizing and costly amputations. But new preclinical research from the National University of Ireland Galway highlights the promise of adult stem cells to treat diabetic wounds.

Irish researchers found that a concoction of mesenchymal stomal cells, or MSCs, combined with a biomaterial made from collagen accelerated wound closure in a diabetic rabbit ulcer. Higher doses of MSCs on a collagen scaffold showed a higher percentage of wound closure compared to lower doses of the stem cells. The collagen and collagen seeded with stem cells also led to improved angiogenesis--a vital process in wound healing through which new blood vessels form from pre-existing vessels--when compared to wounds that were left untreated.

"MSCs have many attractive therapeutic properties," said researcher Timothy O'Brien, director of the National University of Ireland Galway's Regenerative Medicine Institute. "They can be isolated from adults and are easy to grow in the laboratory. It has been shown in Galway and by other scientists that they release special factors that can help new blood vessels to grow. Increasing blood flow is a key step in wound healing."

The study was recently published in Diabetes, the academic journal of the American Diabetes Association.

Researchers are now preparing a regulatory submission to test the treatment in human clinical trials in Ireland.

- here's the study abstract
- read the press release