Chronic wounds may succumb to vitamins

In mice, antioxidants fight diabetic sores

NEW ORLEANS — Vitamins may help chronic wounds heal, studies of mice suggest.

People who are bedridden, have circulation problems or have diabetes often develop sores that won’t heal. If infection sets in, people may die or need to have limbs amputated. Most current therapies, including antibiotics, don’t work well, says Manuela Martins-Green, a cell biologist at the University of California, Riverside.

Lab animals generally don’t get persistent wounds the way humans do. But Martins-Green, Sandeep Dhall and their colleagues discovered that wounds made on the backs of diabetic mice stay open for 90 days or longer if the researchers inhibit the action of natural antioxidants at the time of wounding.

Oxides, chemically reactive molecules that damage tissue, keep the sores open and foster the growth of bacteria, the researchers found. But antioxidants such as vitamin E or N-acetylcysteine neutralized oxidants and reduced bacteria, allowing the sores to close sooner, Dhall reported December 17 at the American Society for Cell Biology’s annual meeting. Combining the vitamins closed the wounds within 20 days.

The researchers don’t yet know if chronic wounds in people are also fueled by oxidants that vitamins might counteract.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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