Experimental treatment might help slow-to-heal wounds

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Researchers have found what they hope is a promising approach to treating diabetic wounds, bed sores, chronic ulcers and other slow-to-heal wounds.

Investigators from Loyola University Health System found that it might be possible to encourage wound healing by suppressing certain immune cells. The cells are white blood cells called neutrophils and natural killer T (NKT) cells, which kill bacteria and other germs that can infect a wound. NKT cells then attract other white blood cells to the wound site. But researchers were quick to caution that in some cases, NKT cells could be harmful by producing enzymes that digest the surrounding tissue. This can cause scar tissue to develop and impede healing.

The Loyola scientists say that using neutrophils is a balancing act; wounds need neutrophils, but not too many of them. In an editorial, the study authors said that early treatment in high-risk patients "decrease the incidence and prevalence of chronic, non-healing wounds, reduce infectious complications and ameliorate associated health-care costs." The study was published in the February issue of Expert Reviews in Dermatology.