Suppression of immune cell as treatment shows promise

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

Loyola University Health System investigators 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.

Neutrophils can be beneficial to wound healing by gobbling up harmful bacteria and debris such as dead cells. But neutrophils also can do harm—by producing enzymes that digest healthy surrounding tissue, leading to excessive scar tissue and slower healing.

“It's a balancing act. You need neutrophils, but not too many of them,” said Aleah Brubaker, the study's lead investigator. She is also an M.D./Ph.D. student at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
In an accompanying editorial, the study authors state that early treatments in high-risk patients “decrease the incidence and prevalence of chronic, non-healing wounds, reduce infectious complications and ameliorate associated health-care costs.”

The editorial adds that since neutrophils and NKT cells are among the earliest immune system responders to injury, “They serve as ideal targets for modulation of the wound-repair process.”

The full study was published in the February issue of the journal Expert Review of Dermatology.