Returning cells to their earliest embryonic state may offer a “potent” resource for healing diabetic foot ulcers, according to a team of Boston-based researchers.

Behzad Gerami-Naini and Jonathan Garlick of the School of Dental Medicine at Tufts University studied whether repair-deficient fibroblasts could be reprogrammed. They compared changes to cell lines derived from the ulcerated skin of two diabetic foot ulcer patients, non-ulcerated foot skin from two diabetic patients, and healthy foot skin from two nondiabetic patients.

Three criteria — immunofluorescent staining, formation of embryoid bodies and formation of teratomas — showed repurposed cells taken from the ulcerated skin were similar to those from healthy or nondiabetic patients. Garlick reported in Cellular Reprogramming that the results show, for the first time, his fibroblast cell lines are a viable option for regenerative therapy.

“The results are encouraging,” Garlick told Medscape. “Unlike cells taken from healthy human skin, cells taken from wounds that don’t heal — like diabetic foot ulcers — are difficult to grow and do not restore normal tissue function.”