Sugar helps to heal diabetic wounds

Diabetes is a condition that is prevalent across the world - there are estimates that numbers of cases globally could approach 592 million by 2035. It is a group of metabolic disorders characterised by high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period.

A side effect of this high blood sugar level, or hyperglycemia in diabetic patients is impairment in wound healing. This is caused by adverse effects on patients' small diameter blood vessels, which results in ulcers on the lower legs and feet which are very difficult to heal.

In chronic cases of ulcerisation, patients may ultimately face the prospect of amputation of toes or feet.

The ability to hasten the healing of these ulcers could help prevent these amputations in extreme cases, but also speed recovery of other patients, relieving the resource and financial burden placed on health services around the world.

Test results from diabetic wound healing trialWhile, many researchers have spent years attempting to find a solution to this problem, many show limitations; short shelf-life, cost, prolonged and extensive treatment. A team from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield, in collaboration with Lancaster University, the COMSATS University in Pakistan and the Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology in Pakistan, have recently reported on a discovery which has the potential to make treatment faster, cheaper and more convenient.

The team has discovered that the application of a small stable pentose sugar, called 2-deoxy-D-ribose (2dDR) to a wound resulted in improved angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels), and investigated whether loading this sugar into a dressing could be a viable option for wound treatment. For the research, an alginate dressing was selected as they are well accepted for use in the treatment of chronic wounds, are biocompatible, have high absorbance capacity, are easy to remove and keep wounds moist and warm.

2dDR was applied to an alginate dressing, and applied to a diabetic wound, and healing was monitored over a period of 20 days. The results of this study demonstrated that wounds treated by this method healed significantly faster than those where the dressing alone was applied.

Now that the team has demonstrated a positive result from using this small sugar to aid wound healing, the next step is for them to examine the actual healing mechanism promoted by 2dDR.

The research team is made up of Professor Sheila MacNeil, Dr Sabiniano Roman and Serkan Dikici from the University of Sheffield, Professor Ihtesham Ur Rehman from Lancaster Univeristy, Dr Muhammad Yar , Maryam Azam and Aqif Anwar Chaudry from COMSATS University and Dr Azra Mahmood from CEMB.

Details of the research can be found in the Journal of Biomaterials Applications.