Researchers at the University of Arkansas are using autofluorescence, the naturally occurring omission of light by cells, to diagnose and monitor chronic skin wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers and pressure wounds.

The biomedical engineers used a process called label-free multiphoton microscopy to view tissue and generate 3D maps of wound metabolism. 

Kyle P. Quinn, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Jake Jones, a doctoral student, used autofluorescence imaging of two molecules to monitor cell metabolism. They employed a method called redox ratio to measure concentrations in diabetic and non-diabetic mice over a period of 10 days.

Changes in the optical redox ratio and NADH fluorescence among the diabetic mice indicated that cells remained at the wound edge, growing and dividing, rather than migrating over the wound to restore the skin’s protective barrier.

“The ability of multiphoton microscopy to non-invasively collect structural and metabolic data suggests that it might have broader applications for wound care and dermatology,” Quinn said. 

The full study was published in Communications Biology.