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$2.2 Million Grant Funds Study of Diabetes Drug for Wound Healing

A drug taken orally to control blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes may promote wound healing when applied directly to injured tissue, according to a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Applied Health Sciences.

Timothy Koh, PhD, professor of kinesiology and nutrition, will use a four-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a translational study of the diabetes drug glyburide for wound healing in humans, beginning this summer.

Koh said that studies in his laboratory showed that glyburide applied directly to wounds in diabetic mice improved healing. The drug, he said, may modify the activity of macrophages-cells that are crucial in healing.

Research in other laboratories has shown that glyburide inhibits a cellular structure called the NLRP3 inflammasome, “which is kind of a danger-sensor for the immune system,” Koh said.

Other groups, he said, have found that the elevated sugar levels in diabetes may activate the inflammasome.

“When this pathway is activated, an inflammatory response is mounted, macrophages get angry and cause tissue damage,” Koh said.

Sustained activity of the inflammasome may cause chronic inflammation and impaired healing, resulting in chronic wounds, commonly appearing as foot ulcers in patients with diabetes.

The human study will enroll 60 older patients with diabetes. Half will have their wounds treated with glyburide, and the other half will be treated with a placebo for one month.

Koh suspects that wounded tissue communicates with the bone marrow, where macrophages are produced-and in patients with diabetes, the signals may be amplified or extended in duration. He hopes to see whether those signals can be controlled by applying glyburide to the wound.

This article was adapted from information provided by UIC.