Diabetes is a growing problem worldwide, becoming epidemic in many countries.
In the U.S. alone nearly 26-million children and adults are diabetic.That's over eight percent of the population.
Among their many health problems are chronic wounds. Wounds that lead to the amputation of limbs in 66-thousand diabetics in America each year.
There are currently no therapeutic treatments, but researchers at the University of Notre Dame have made a find they hope will change that.
Dr. Mayland Chang of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry says currently the standard of care for diabetic wounds is to keep them clean and prevent infection.
Her team of researchers is studying what are called metalloproteinases or enzymes in the wounds of healthy and diabetic mice.
And they believe, for the first time, they have identified enzymes both detrimental and beneficial to repair wounds. Chang explains, "In
a mouse model of diabetic wound healing we found two of these enzymes. the enzymes MMP-8 and MMP-9 and went to determine what the role of each enzyme is. When they introduced an inhibitor for MMP-8 they found the wound healing actually slowed down."
But what they found with MMP-9 they found a different reaction says Change, "We found that when we administered a selective inhibitor for MMP-9 it actually accelerated wound healing."
Chang says the treatment would work much like a salve, "This would be a topical administration and this is actually how we have done it in our animal models." And she says they have had success in healing chronic wounds.
Their next step is approval from both Notre Dame and nearby Elkhart General Hospital to study tissue samples from humans to see if human enzymes would be different from what they found in mice.
A finding that could, in the not so distant future, be a major breakthrough for diabetics suffering from chronic wounds says Chang, "I think it would be really beneficial for patients and a step forward in working on this disease. You can have the wounds from patients resolved instead of undergo an amputation."
Giving diabetics worldwide once less worry about a disease that will be a journey that lasts a lifetime.
If you'd like to read more about the research going on at Notre Dame, we have a link under the picture attached to this story.