Washington: Scientists have developed a low cost, nanometer-sized drug to treat chronic wounds including diabetic foot ulcers or burns.
Poor blood circulation arising from diabetes often results in skin wounds which do not heal, causing pain, infection and at times amputation.
Several proteins, called growth factors, have been found to speed up the healing process, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
However, purifying these growth factor proteins is very expensive, and they do not last long on the injured site, according to a Harvard statement.
Now, Hebrew University (Jerusalem) and Harvard Medical School researchers led by Yaakov Nahmias, bioengineering scientist at Hebrew University, have used genetic engineering to produce a "robotic" growth factor protein that responds to temperature.
Increasing the temperature causes dozens of these proteins to fold together into a nanoparticle that is 200 times smaller than a single hair.
This behavior greatly simplifies protein purification, making it very inexpensive to produce. It also enables the growth factor to be confined and to remain at the burn or wound site.
The experimental drug, developed by the research group as a topical ointment, has been patented and thus far has been used to treat chronic wounds in diabetic mice, dramatically increasing the healing rate.
The goal is to proceed to human clinical trials at some future date after future tests and refinements.