Posted on September 19, 2017

Diabetic foot ulcer

Patient with diabetic foot ulcer receiving treatment. Image: kirov1976/Shutterstock

Those living with diabetic foot ulcers will be happy to hear that a new device aims to treat the ailment with DNA.

The AMBER centre and Dr Cathal Kearney of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland have been awarded €1.3m to alleviate something that affects thousands of people in Ireland: diabetic foot ulcers.

People living with diabetes across the world are at risk of foot ulcers, with up to a quarter of the 422m-strong diabetic population expected to suffer from the ailment in their lifetime.

The ulcers are very difficult to heal and are often prone to infection, which can lead to amputation. In 2015 in Ireland, 2,400 people were hospitalised with them, with nearly one in five leading to amputations.

The new funding was provided under the European Research Council’s (ERC) Starter Grant for groundbreaking research and will now allow Kearney to assemble a team to develop his research titled ‘BONDS: Bilayered ON-Demand Scaffolds for diabetic foot ulcers’.

The goal of this new programme is to develop a device that will support the body’s own cells to grow new tissues to repair skin damage on the foot caused by ulcers.

The device will be made of a sponge-like material and DNA will be delivered inside it, directing cells to heal the wound.

Could benefit diabetes patients globally

Kearney said: “I am honoured to have been awarded this prestigious research grant from the ERC. This research has the potential to change that for the better for people with diabetes, not only in Ireland but across the world.”

The ERC’s Starter Grant is quite prestigious in European academic circles, with this being just one of two awarded to Irish institutions this year, out of a total of 406.

Carlos Moedas, European commissioner for research, science and innovation, said: “Top talent needs good conditions at the right time to thrive. The EU provides the best possible conditions at the early stages of a researcher’s career through the ERC Starting Grants. That’s why this funding is so crucial for the future of Europe as a science hub: it keeps and attracts young talent.”

The news coincides with the promising results seen in a test that could help those living with metabolic conditions such as diabetes, using a patch that can convert unhealthy white fat into more manageable brown fat.

By Colm Gorey

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