Molecule could be harnessed to improve healing of chronic wounds, researchers say

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Immune system cells in the skin promote wound healing by producing a particular molecule, according to newly published research. The discovery could lead to more effective treatments for diabetic ulcers and other chronic wounds common in the elderly.

A research team at The Scripps Research Institute focused on dendritic epidermal T cells, which previously have been recognized as the primary immune system cells in the skin. Based on studies in mice, the team discovered that some of these T cells produce the molecule interleukin-17A (IL-17A) when the skin is injured.

Applying IL-17A sped up wound healing in certain mice that were lacking the molecule, the team found. The molecule summons other helpful immune cells to damaged skin and spurs other types of cells to combat bacteria and begin regrowing skin.

"Chronic wounds are an increasing clinical problem, particularly in the elderly, the disabled and people with diabetes, and so we hope that our results, particularly the wound-healing role of IL-17A, will help lead to better ways of treating such conditions," stated senior author Wendy L. Havran, Ph.D.

Havran also noted that IL-17A is suppressed by some treatments for the skin condition psoriasis, which could increase these people's risk of chronic wounds.

Results were posted yesterday in the online edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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