Delivering therapeutic genes using a new biomaterial-based delivery system to the site of chronic wounds in diabetes patients may enhance wound healing. Researchers at the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) at NUI Galway hope that technology being developed at the University may reduce the rate of limb amputation and morbidity in diabetic patients.
Diabetes related chronic wounds and subsequent lower limb amputation are major causes of morbidity in diabetic patients, incurring enormous medical, economic and social burden. The rigorous treatment regimes in clinics have had only modest success in lowering the overall amputation rate.
The major reason behind the failure is rooted in the fact that diabetes affects all the wound healing cells not only functionally but also genetically. This molecular disarray is not completely understood yet, so treatment regimes aimed at rectifying the genetic problem are needed for tangible therapeutic benefit.
Researchers at the NFB are working on a project investigating the genetic dysregulation but also combined novel and complementary genes to normalize wound healing.
The work has found that success of the gene therapy depends largely on how it is delivered. The gene delivery system developed gives a protective scaffold and also allows controlled delivery with components carrying different genes and degrading at different rates. The gene delivery method is, in effect, micron-size spheres embedded in mesh made from protein fibers, a tiny but very complex biomaterial product.
Overall results are very encouraging with enhanced wound closure, complemented by increased blood vessel formation and reduced inflammation.
According to the NFB’s Mangesh Kulkarni, “We envision that the combined new gene therapy and delivery system can aid in reducing the amputation rate by enhancing wound healing. This has the potential to make a real change when applied to chronic diabetic wounds. Since the components of the system have a relatively good safety profile, clinical trials can be conducted to prove the therapeutic benefit in human patients.”
Full details of the research will be presented today at what is Europe’s largest biomaterials conference, which is taking place in the Dublin Convention Centre and runs until Thursday.
With almost 60 researchers, the NFB at NUI Galway is one of the largest biomaterial groups in the EU. Director of the NFB and conference co-chair, Professor Abhay Pandit said: “Biomaterials, natural or synthetic, are at the forefront of some of the most exciting fields in medical research today. This is a significant conference, as the latest research findings and technologies from Europe and beyond are being presented over the course its five-day programme.