Researchers based at the University of Montreal are exploring a new way to help speed wound healing. They’ve recently released a study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology showing that their technique used in mice has garnered positive results.
Macrophages Are Necessary To Healing
In normal wound healing, large cells called “macrophages” direct the process. They are the construction workers of the body and complete many tasks, including:
- cleaning up the damaged tissue
- producing fibroblast growth factor to encourage growth of repair cells
- promoting the growth of skin cells
- recruiting cells to grow blood vessels
- directing the pattern of blood vessel growth
In diabetics, poor circulation and high blood sugar levels can limit the ability of these cells and other cells to reach the wound site. Naturally, this can slow the healing process dramatically.
Dr. Jean-François Cailhier and his team found that a certain protein, MFG-E8, is what triggers macrophages to start the healing process after the initial inflammation around a wound. They knew that injecting the protein directly into the body could trigger an excess of repair and keloid scarring in areas nowhere near the wound site. So, they developed an ex vivo (out of body) treatment using adoptive cell transfer.
The researchers removed stem cells from mouse bone marrow and used them to create macrophages. They exposed the macrophages to protein MFG-E8 and injected the ‘programmed’ cells back into the mice. Over the course of the study, they found that the treated wounds closed and formed scar tissue much faster than untreated wounds.
What’s great about this technique is that it applies macrophages directly to the wound site and the cells are already programmed to start the healing process.
A Multitude Of Applications
While this is a study on mice, Dr. Cailhier plans to test the treatment on human cells and eventually, develop a treatment program for humans. The ex-vivo macrophage treatment could help diabetics with slow wound healing, severe burn victims, and even cancer patients facing reconstructive surgeries.References