New cell therapy ‘could prevent diabetes-related amputations’

By Editor
30th May 2017
Footcare, Research

A new therapeutic approach has been developed which could help prevent diabetes-related amputations, it has been announced.

A team from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) in Canada say they have found a way to modify specific white blood cells – the macrophages – and make them capable of accelerating cutaneous healing.

It has long been known that macrophages play a key role in the normal wound healing process. These white cells specialise in major cellular clean-up processes and are essential for tissue repair, researchers said.

Jean-Francois Cailhier and Patrick Laplante

CRCHUM nephrologist Jean-Francois Cailhier said: “With this treatment, we can succeed in closing wounds and promoting healing of diabetic ulcers, we might be able to avoid amputations.

“When a wound does not heal, it might be secondary to enhanced inflammation and not enough anti-inflammatory activity. We discovered that macrophage behaviour can be controlled so as to tip the balance towards cell repair by means of a special protein called Milk Fat Globule Epidermal Growth Factor-8, or MFG-E8.”

During their research, the team showed when there is a skin lesion, MFG-E8 calls for an anti-inflammatory and pro-reparatory reaction in the macrophages. Without this protein, the lesions heal much more slowly. They then developed a treatment by adoptive cell transfer in order to amplify the healing process.

Adoptive cell transfer consists in treating the patient using their own cells, which are harvested, treated, then re-injected in order to exert their action on an organ.

Patrick Laplante, research assistant at CRCHUM, said: “We used stem cells derived from murine bone marrow to obtain macrophages, which we treated ex vivo with the MFG-E8 protein before re-injecting them into the mice, and we quickly noticed an acceleration of healing.”

Dr Cailhier added : “If we were to inject the MFG-E8 protein directly into the body there could be effects, distant from the wound, upon all the cells that are sensitive to MFG-E8, which could lead to excess repair of the skin causing aberrant scars named keloids.”

The study was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

In July 2015 Diabetes UK revealed the number of diabetes-related amputations each week in England had reached an all-time record high of 135.

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