The diabetic drug glyburide could be used to help heal chronic wounds.

Glyburide is among many popular drug options for Type 2 diabetes treatment. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, the drug works by causing the body to produce extra insulin, which helps break down sugars. According to a 2008 review published in the journal Pharmacological Reports, a number of studies have demonstrated that glyburide had between an 80 and 85 percent success rate. According to a recent press release, one researcher from the University of Illinois at Chicago has announced plans to use glyburide for another purpose entirely: to develop more effective wound healing regimens for diabetic patients.

Rethinking healing

The man behind this groundbreaking new take on glyburide is Timothy Koh, a professor of kinesiology and nutrition at UIC. Koh’s work on translational uses for glyburide is part of a new four-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Koh has been studying glyburide as a wound healing agent in laboratory mice, and by summer 2016 he’ll move on to human trials. The research will involve 60 diabetes patients, half of which will have glyburide applied directly to their wounds as opposed to ingesting the medication. The remaining 30 participants will serve as a control group.

Koh explained that the results of the animal trials were especially promising, as wounds on diabetic mice not only healed faster but more effectively as well. While the work with human participants will offer more answers, Koh said he believes the success of glyburide directly ties into macrophages. According to Duquesne University, macrophages are hugely important in the wound healing process, helping rebuild certain tissue structures and clearing out dead cells. However, a protein called NLRP3 inflammasome activates an inflammatory response that causes macrophages to actually destroy tissue. By applying glyburide, Koh was able to deactivate NLRP3 and prevent that inflammation from occurring in the first place. In turn, this let macrophages work more efficiently to rebuild vital tissue components.

Koh also mentioned new research indicating that people with elevated blood sugar levels, like diabetics, are more likely to experience the inflammatory effects of NLRP3. Macrophages are created in the bone marrow, and when tissue is wounded, macrophages are called to the site by NLRP3 to begin the tissue rebuilding process. Koh said in diabetic patients, this signaling process somehow becomes over-extended. In fact, the inflammasome is often cited as the reason many diabetics experience key side effects like impaired hearing, chronic wounds and foot ulcers.

Building better drugs

In addition to glyburide, a number of drug options have been explored in recent years that demonstrate real promise for diabetic patients with chronic wounds. In 2010, researchers at Stanford University unveiled results on a study related to deferoxamine. According to findings, the wounds of diabetic patients healed up to 10 days faster than a control group. The Stanford team believed the drug worked by targeting fibroblasts, which help to bind cells together into brand new structures.

In 2011, researchers from Harvard University and Hebrew University detailed a new drug treatment that featured nanotechnology. Utilizing these groundbreaking micro machines, the researchers were able to reduce the size of the cytokine cells, another helpful component of the wound healing process. With smaller cytokines, proteins were able to come together more fluidly and help create vital extracellular matrixes.

Finally, in 2014, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School released the results of a new two-drug combination therapy. The two drugs, both of which were already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, were able to speed up skin healing rates for surgical incisions, ulcers and burns. Generally, the lab rats healed most wounds in just under a couple of weeks.

The right medications are only part of an effective wound healing regimen. Diabetic patients will also need the proper dressings and other products. As the nation’s leader in the delivery of specialized wound care supplies, Advanced Tissue ships supplies to individuals at home and in long-term care facilities.