Researchers have located a protein that may be linked to slow wound healing in diabetics.

It has long been known that people with diabetes tend to have trouble recovering from wounds. With the high prevalence of diabetic foot ulcers, this issue with healing is a major concern for health care providers. Now, scientists may be one step closer to finding a solution, as researchers have identified the molecule in people with this metabolic condition that impairs healing.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine conducted a study into the issues surrounding diabetic wound healing. They located a protein, Foxo1, that played a surprising role in recovery. Beforehand, the scientists thought that this protein would benefit wound healing among participants with the metabolic condition; however; the study revealed that diabetics with low levels of Foxo1 experienced speedier recovery.

Dr. Dana T. Graves, periodontics professor and vice dean for scholarship and research at UPenn, expressed the importance of wound dressings to the healing process.

“A critical aspect of wound healing is to cover the wound to limit its exposure to the environment and prevent it from being colonized by a microbial biofilm,” Graves said.

However, even with the right dressings and environment, the diabetic subjects showed suppressed cell movement and proliferation, except in cases where the Foxo1 was not present. With this knowledge, researchers may now be able to develop new therapies that could improve healing in people with diabetes,

“In terms of a wound-healing response, it looks like Foxo1 might be one of the central regulators that are affected by the diabetic condition,” Graves said. “This may make it a good drug target, which could possibly be administered locally to minimize systemic effects in diabetic wounds.”

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