Blocking immune cells may be key to preventing diabetic wounds

Many individuals who have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes eventually develop wounds on their lower extremities that refuse to heal. Occasionally, these sores become so bad that the limb needs to be amputated. However, research from Loyola University may soon yield a new medication that could prevent this process, as scientists say they are getting close to a cure for the problem.

They wrote in the latest issue of the journal Expert Reviews in Dermatology that diabetic wounds can be so hard to heal because of interference from the body's own immune system. Natural killer T cells, or NTKs, normally attack bacteria and prevent infections. However, sometimes, they can become overactive and actually interfere with the healing process.

Similarly, neutrophils are immune cells that are supposed to destroy invading bacteria. However, they too can become overactive and sometimes release enzymes that digest healthy tissue, which makes wounds reluctant to heal.

These two components of the immune system play vital roles in preventing infection and are necessary to the early stages of wound healing. Yet, when they are present at the site of sore for too long, they can cause problems.

However, the team reported that it may be possible to prevent these cells from entering the area of the wound. In fact, they said that early experiments have shown that it may be possible to treat wounds with certain types of antibodies that deactivate both NTKs and neutrophils, which could allow the natural healing process to progress more successfully. This could drastically reduce the number of diabetic wounds and amputations.

"It's a balancing act," said Aleah Brubaker, one of the lead authors of the study. "You need neutrophils but not too many of them."
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