The Centers for Disease Control reports that 15 percent of Americans living with type 2 diabetes struggle with hard-to-heal foot ulcers.
Now, a biomedical engineering team at Michigan Tech wants to reduce how long it takes for diabetic foot ulcers to heal. They want to take the typical healing period from 150 to 21 days.
They plan to reduce the healing time by taking advantage of what the body already does naturally: build layers of new tissue pumped up by nitric oxide.
In patients with diabetes, impaired nitric oxide production lessens the healing power of skin cells
The Michigan Tech researchers plan to create nitric oxide-laden bandages that adjust the chemical release depending on the cell conditions.
“Nitric oxide is a powerful healing chemical, but it’s not meant to be heavy-handed,” said Megan Frost, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and an affiliated associate professor of materials science and engineering in a press release.
“We’re looking at the profiles of healthy and diabetic cells to find a more nuanced way to recover wound function,” she adds.
Frost explains the old approach is to add nitric oxide and sit back to see if it works. However, she says what researchers are finding is that it’s not enough to apply and just leave it. “We have to keep tabs on how much nitric oxide is actually needed,” she says.
A big problem that Frost and her team address is how nitric oxide is measured in the first place.
So, Frost’s lab built a nitric oxide-measuring device for their study by hand.
It was a challenge since it means taking measurements is much harder, which limits the dataset size, but Frost has an agreement with Zysense, LLC to streamline the building process and produce commercial nitric oxide measurement devices that would improve their research.
To build a nitric oxide bandage with personalized healing power, the team plans to work with the UP Portage Health System to gather cell samples from local patients.
By expanding their cell samples–and applying the tech to real-world patients–the team will continue to broaden their database while deepening their knowledge of nitric oxide mechanisms.
In a few years, they plan to have a working bandage prototype, one that leaves off the clunky nitrite proxies and nitric oxide dumps.
Instead, patients dealing with diabetic foot ulcers will see a light at the end of the tunnel much sooner than half a year or more–the nitric oxide-releasing bandage could help heal one of healthcare’s toughest diseases in less than a month.