Wound closure still poses significant problems, particularly in patients who are afflicted by chronic wounds. These individuals do not have sufficient immune system strength to properly seal the affected area, sometimes even after months of treatment. Finding the right method to help is also tricky. Drugs produce adverse and varied side effects and do not yield consistent recovery results. As the U.S. population continues to age, chronic wounds and their care are expected to become a more prevalent problem.

Turning acid into chemokine

Luckily, there’s a new breakthrough from a group of researchers working from Uppsala University and Saint Louis University. According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the group discovered that lactic acid bacteria can be transformed into chemokine CXCL12, a protein designed to attract white blood cells.

This successful reprogramming bioengineers the wound site to be stronger and more capable of healing. The immune cells present are reinforced. In a press release accompanying the publication, lead researcher Mia Phillipson, a professor at the Department of Medical Cell Biology, Division of Integrative Physiology, Uppsala University, stated that, “The chemokine, CXCL12, is endogenously upregulated in injured tissue and by increasing the levels further, more immune cells are recruited and are more specialised to heal the wound, which accelerates the whole process.”

Previous research

This is not the first time that lactic acid has shown promise in wound healing. A 2012 study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that lactate present at the wound site did indeed help the immune system begin to heal the infected area.

The new research builds on this. Not only is the natural lactate helpful but additional lactic acid present can be transformed to increase the benefits without any sign of adverse effects. The protein reassignment stays confined to the wound site.

While this research is promising, it is important to remember that it still has many clinical trials to go. Thus far, this research has been confined to mice. Human testing will represent the next significant step forward.

Chronic wound care is a growing problem in the U.S. but breakthroughs like the ability to bioengineer lactic acid to enhance immune response represents an important step toward a cure.

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