When someone has diabetes, foot injuries such as ulcers can take a long time to heal. Not only does this cause diabetics prolonged discomfort, but it can even lead to amputation. Help may be on the way, however, in the form of a drug that's delivered through a skin patch.
Foot ulcers in diabetics are slow to heal for two reasons. First, blockages in the blood vessels restrict the amount of oxygen-rich blood that can reach the wound.
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There are methods of increasing that blood flow, but that's where the second factor comes in. Diabetes impairs a protein known as hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α), which turns on the genes that are responsible for the formation of capillaries at wound sites. Without those fine blood vessels in place, blood still ultimately won't be able to get to the damaged tissue.
Led by Dr. Geoffrey Gurtner, a team from the Stanford University School of Medicine recently developed a drug that increases HIF-1α in diabetics. It incorporates an existing medication called deferoxamine, although its molecules are too large to get through the skin adequately if simply applied as a cream. That's where the patch comes in.
Like other transdermal patches, it utilizes an array of microneedles to painlessly poke holes in the top layer of the skin, allowing for a gradual release of the medication into the body. When tested, the patch was found to heal wounds an average of 14 days faster than when the drug was just applied topically.
Additionally, by boosting the damaged skin's collagen levels, the quality of the wound-healing was better. In diabetics, this could result in less likelihood of the healed wound re-ulcerating sometime down the road, which is currently a common problem.
Source: American College of Surgeons