Molecule may help heal diabetic and pressure ulcers

By Pat Hagan

LONDON (Reuters Health) – A research team in Scotland plans to begin clinical trials with a novel molecule that has the potential to treat non-healing wounds such as diabetic ulcers and pressure sores, the scientists said on Wednesday.

The US National Institutes of Health has agreed to provide £600,000 for the researchers, based at the University of Dundee, after they discovered that a molecule called migration stimulating factor (MSF) appears to have the ability to kick-start the healing process.

Professor Seth Schor, an expert in cellular and molecular biology, and his researcher wife Dr. Ana Schor established in laboratory tests that MSF appears to be a vital part of healing.

Clinical trials with the molecule could begin within 18 months, Professor Schor said. He envisages that the molecule would eventually be used as a gel applied to wounds under a dressing or with an artificial skin graft.

MSF is thought to be important because it stimulates angiogenesis. The molecule is continually secreted by foetal cells, which the researchers think may partly explain why infants' wounds heal rapidly without a scar.

But in adults it is normally only present during the healing process, while in wounds with a poor blood supply–such as diabetic ulcers–it does not seem to be present at all. "At the ulcer bed we found no sign of MSF. For some reason it's not present in those wounds that do not heal. It's a question of putting it on and kick-starting the wound healing process," he said.

The NIH grant is thought to reflect the considerable potential of the experimental treatment. Professor Schor said he understood the NIH criteria for funding work outside the US were that it had to be of 'very significant potential' and that it was not possible to conduct the research programme within the US.

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