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Ultrasound May Accelerate Diabetic Skin Ulcer Healing

Treatment transmits vibration through the skin, activates cells and stimulates the healing process…

Accelerated wound healing yields particular benefits in diabetes patients who suffer from skin ulcers. Faster wound healing also reduces the chances of getting infected, thus lowering amputation incidence and mortality rate. According to Dr. Mark Bass, from the University’s Centre for Membrane Interactions and Dynamics (CMIAD), “Skin ulcers are excruciatingly painful for patients and in many cases can only be resolved by amputation of the limb. Using ultrasound wakes up the cells and stimulates a normal healing process. Because it is just speeding up the normal processes, the treatment doesn’t carry the risk of side effects that are often associated with drug treatments.”

A study in mice showed that mechanical stimulation of the skin activates the calcium/CamKinaseII/Tiam1/Rac1 pathway that substitutes for fibronectin-dependent signaling (which normally occur in healthy skin) and promotes fibroblast migration. According to the study, “Ultrasound treatment in diabetic and age mice recruited fibroblasts to the wound bed reduced healing time by 30%, restoring healing rates to those observed in young, healthy animals.”

Furthermore, ultrasound can effectively be used in animals with healing defects (animals that lack fibronectin receptors or blocked by pharmacological inhibition of the CamKinaseII pathway). In addition, using ultrasound treatment can also reverse migration defects of fibroblasts in human.

The finding of this study lays a foundation for developing future therapies that aid in the management of chronic wounds. Dr. Bass added, “Now that we have proven the effectiveness of ultrasound, we need to explore the signal further. We have found that the ultrasound signal we currently use is effective, but it is possible that by refining the treatment we could improve the effects even further. “Because ultrasound is relatively risk free we could expect to see it in broad clinical use within three or four years.”

Practice Pearls:

  • Ultrasound transmits vibration through the skin, promotes fibroblast migration to the wound site and enhances wound healing.
  • Ultrasound treatment can reduce healing time up to 1/3.
  • Ultrasound is relatively risk-free; we could expect to see it in broad clinical use within three or four years.

James A Roper. “Ultrasonic Stimulation of Mouse Skin Reverses the Healing Delays in Diabetes and Aging by Activation of Rac1.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/jid.2015.224.