For most people, a cut or scrape, especially a minor one, is of little concern. These injuries generally heal in a few days and don’t require treatment. Even larger wounds are usually not too worrisome, although they may need a bit more attention.
For people with diabetes, however, wound healing is a different story. They can often take several days longer than they should to heal and require more medical attention than injuries in non-diabetics. To put things in perspective, a wound that would take 23 days to fully heal in an ordinary person might take about 26 days or more to heal in a person with diabetes.
This phenomenon mostly because high blood sugar levels over a long period of time cause the arteries to become stiffer and more narrow, which means they are not able to carry blood, oxygen, and nutrients as easily, especially to the body’s extremities. This limitation of blood flow and nutrient supply makes it more difficult for the body to heal its own wounds.
Along with a lack of nutrients, improper blood flow also causes a decrease in the number of white blood cells able to reach the extremities to fight off infections. And because people with diabetes can suffer from diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, they aren’t always aware that they have an injury until it becomes a bigger problem.
A few special wound dressings have been invented to combat the issue of slow wound healing in people with diabetes, but most of them are expensive or impractical. But it appears that is about to change.
A research team at the University Putra Malaysia has created a new type of wound dressing made from “locally isolated bacterium” (from rotten starfruit) and “silver nanoparticles preparation” (from bitter gourd extract).
Do these ingredients surprise you? They surprised us too. But Professor Rosfarin Mohamad, who led the study, says it works. The mixture can be applied directly to the wound as a gel, sprayed onto the wound in a solution form, or applied to a bandage.
“This combination produces a new product known as bacterial nanocellulose silver nanoparticles composite or green composite,” she says. “The green composite is a new and novel product for chronic wound healing and dressing materials targeting the diabetic patients.”
Professor Mohamad says the dressing will cost less than diabetic wound dressings that Malaysians can get from overseas, and it also heals wounds faster than other varieties of dressings. It’s also environmentally friendly.
“It is a simple procedure which is more economical and green,” says Profesor Mohamad. “It has both antimicrobial and healing properties. It is proven and tested to be more effective on chronic and traumatic wounds, which is suitable for diabetic patients.”
The team plans to have their research project done by 2021 so that the product can get on the market and start helping people. Of course, this dressing could be used on any wound, but the team is emphasizing its use for patients with diabetes, since wounds are more difficult to heal in diabetic patients.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?