In people with diabetes, the natural ability for wounds to heal well is reduced, so these patients may suffer from chronic wounds that take time to heal, and which may become chronic and require, in severe cases, amputation of the affected limb. Now an innovator magnetic gel developed by researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) can be a solution in these cases, since it has proven to be capable of accelerate the healing of diabetic wounds and recurrence rates and, thanks to this, reduces the incidence of limb amputation.
Around 422 million people live with diabetes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that the number of diabetics continues to increase, so the chronic wounds associated with this disease, such as foot ulcers or diabetic foot – which are the most common wounds in these patients and the most difficult to treat – have become a major public health challenge worldwide.
The NUS team has described the properties of the new gel they have developed in an article published in the scientific journal Advanced Materials. They explain that each treatment includes the application of a bandage prefilled with a hydrogel containing skin cells for healing and magnetic particles. For best therapeutic results, a wireless external magnetic device is used to activate skin cells and accelerate the wound healing process. The ideal duration of the magnetic stimulation is one to two hours.
“The approach we are taking not only accelerates wound healing, but also promotes overall wound health and reduces the chances of recurrence.”
The researchers conducted laboratory tests that showed that the treatment along with magnetic stimulation healed the diabetics’ wounds about three times faster than conventional methods. Additionally, although research has focused on healing diabetic foot ulcers, this technology has potential to treat a wide range of wounds, such as Burns.
A comprehensive approach to healing diabetic wounds
“Conventional dressings do not have an active role in wound healing,” said the professors. Andy Earlier, from the team formed by researchers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering of the NUS Faculty of Design and Engineering. They only prevent the wound from getting worse and it is necessary to change the patient’s dressing every two or three days, which represents a great financial cost and inconvenience for the patients.
In contrast, the technique created by NUS takes a comprehensive “all-in-one” approach to wound healing, accelerating the process on several fronts. “Our technology addresses multiple critical factors associated with diabetic wounds, simultaneously managing elevated glucose levels in the wound area, activating dormant skin cells near the wound, restoring damaged blood vessels, and repairing the altered vascular network within the wound. the wound,” explained Associate Professor Tay.
Skin cells continually experience mechanical forces due to normal daily activities. However, patients with wounds are often advised not to engage in physical activity, such as walking, as this could kill remaining cells essential for healing.
The gel specifically designed for wound healing contains two types of FDA-approved skin cells: keratinocytes (essential for skin repair) and fibroblasts (for the formation of connective tissue) and small magnetic particles. When combined with a dynamic magnetic field generated by an external device, the mechanical stimulation of the gel encourages dermal fibroblasts to become more active.
Tests performed in the laboratory showed that increasing fibroblast activity increased cell growth by 240% and caused the collagen production – a key protein for wound healing – will more than double. It also improved communication with keratinocytes to promote the formation of new vessels.
“What our team has managed to do is identify a sweet spot by applying gentle mechanical stimulation,” Associate Professor Tay said. “The result is that the remaining skin cells are ‘worked’ to heal the wounds, but not to the point of killing them.” “The approach we are taking not only accelerates wound healing, but also promotes overall wound health and reduces the chances of recurrence,” he adds.
While magnetic gel has shown great promise in improving diabetic wound healing, it also revolutionizes the treatment of other types of complex wounds. “These principles and the adaptation of our technology, such as its overall ease of use for patients, mean that it can be applied to improve wound healing in a variety of situations other than diabetes, such as burns and non-diabetic chronic ulcers”concludes Dr. Shou Yufeng, member of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the NUS Faculty of Design and Engineering and co-first author of the research article.