Researchers discover route to improved wound healing

2 April 2024 | Muriel Cozier

Managing poorly healing wounds has an annual global cost of $250 billion.

Researchers from Monash University’s Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) and EMBL Australia, have uncovered a molecule involved in the healing process, which when engineered and injected into animal models, increases the rate of wound closure up to 2.5 times, as well as increasing the rate of muscle regeneration.

Ageing and diseases such as diabetes impact the ability of wounds to heal. Managing wounds that aren’t healing well is estimated to cost more than $250 billion globally each year.

Publishing the work in the journal Nature, associate professor Mikaёl Martino, group leader at ARMI and EMBL Australia said the discovery had ‘shed light on the crucial role of sensory neurons in orchestrating the repair and regeneration of tissues.’

Researchers found that during the healing process, nociceptive sensory neurons, which sense pain, grow into injured skin and muscle tissues, communicating with immune cells through calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a neuropeptide. ‘This neuropeptide acts on immune cells to control them, facilitating tissue healing and muscle regeneration,’ said Martino.

The researchers found that the selective removal of sensory neurons in mice reduced the presence of CGRP, which led to the impairment in the healing of skin wounds and muscle regeneration following injury. However, when an engineered version of CGRP was given to the mice with neuropathy, similar to that seen in diabetic patients, it led to rapid wound healing and muscle regeneration.

‘Harnessing the potential of this neuro-immuno-regenerative axis opens new avenues for effective therapies, whether as standalone treatments or in combination with existing therapeutic approaches,’ said Martino.

The team aims to develop innovative therapies that address one of the root causes of impaired tissue healing, which they say will offer hope to millions.

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