|Wounds May One Day Heal Better, Faster, Due
to New NIH-Funded Wound Healing Centers
Burns. Diabetic ulcers. Gunshot wounds. Bedsores. The treatment
of these and other wounds may improve, thanks to a new initiative
of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS),
a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The institute announced today that it will award $13 million over
four years to create four centers to develop innovative therapies
for acute and chronic wounds.
Central to the effort is bringing together experts from many fields:
microbiologists, engineers, cell biologists, dermatologists, and
other physicians. The goal is to deepen understanding of wound
healing and apply this knowledge to enhance treatment.
“The new centers create interdisciplinary groups of basic scientists
and clinicians to work together on their most innovative ideas,” said
NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. “Focusing the diverse expertise
and approaches of these teams will integrate current knowledge
about how wounds heal and generate new strategies to enhance and
speed the healing process."
The new Centers for Innovative Wound Healing Research include
a total of 36 investigators at 8 universities and medical centers.
The wound healing centers and their lead principal investigators
- Andrew Baird, Ph.D., a molecular biologist at the La Jolla
Institute for Molecular Medicine in San Diego, Calif. Baird's
group will combine mathematics and biology to simultaneously
evaluate millions of molecules for their capacity to speed up
the normal healing process. These methods, originally developed
by cancer researchers to target tumors, allow investigators to
mine huge libraries of molecules for those with new and improved
biological activities. Baird and his colleagues will use promising
molecules to enhance the activity of growth factors that accelerate
healing, deliver gene-based medicines to promote tissue repair,
and study how stem cells in bone marrow contribute to tissue
- Luisa A. DiPietro, D.D.S., Ph.D., an immunologist and cell
biologist at the University of Illinois in Chicago. DiPietro’s
group will study wound healing in mucosal tissues, which protect
body cavities and canals that come into contact with the air.
These tissues, such as those found in the mouth and genital and
digestive tracts, heal more quickly and with less scarring than
skin. Understanding how mucosal tissues heal so well could suggest
ways to minimize scars from skin wounds. The team will start
by identifying the proteins and genes key to mucosal healing
by comparing mucosal and skin repair in humans, mice, and rabbits.
Then, the scientists will test whether manipulating any of these
molecules can affect scar formation and healing. Ultimately,
the goal of the research center is to develop drugs that reduce
scarring in humans, especially adults, who tend to heal more
slowly than children.
- Gregg L. Semenza, M.D., Ph.D., a geneticist at Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md. Semenza’s group
will study how certain types of cells, called endothelial progenitor
cells, can speed healing and reduce scarring in burn wounds.
The cells, dubbed EPCs, are produced in bone marrow and are essential
to rebuilding blood vessels, which are needed to repair injured
tissues. The research team will test ways to promote this natural
healing by turning on a specific set of genes that recruit EPCs
to the wound site.
- Philip S. Stewart, Ph.D., a chemical and biological engineer
at Montana State University in Bozeman. The Stewart group will
examine how thin layers of bacteria, called microbial biofilms,
impede the healing of chronic wounds. Microbial biofilms are
complex, structured communities in which bacteria and other microorganisms
interact with each other. When such films collect on dead or
damaged tissue, they can resist antibiotics and immune system
defenses. The research team will study the incidence and microbial
make-up of biofilms in chronic wounds, develop laboratory models
of biofilm infection, and test treatments designed to disrupt
the biofilms. In addition to yielding treatments for chronic
wounds, this research may help in treating other conditions in
which biofilms are thought to play a role, such as ear infections,
and inflammation of the sinuses, bones, and lining of the heart.
Writer: Susan Gaidos
To arrange an interview with NIGMS Director Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D.,
contact the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at
301-496-7301. For more information about NIGMS funding of research
on trauma, burn, perioperative injury, and wound healing, visit http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Initiatives/Trauma/.
a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports basic
biomedical research that is the foundation for advances in disease
diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.