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Tools to heal wounds could save millions

News release from Industrial Research Limited

14 August 2006

Using nature’s tools to heal wounds could save millions

Natural product-based therapies for chronic wounds could take over from pharmaceutical-based treatments and artificial skin substitutes, saving the taxpayer almost a hundred million dollars per year.

Scientists at Industrial Research are working on a range of natural product wound healing therapies in collaboration with the Wellington School of Medicine and the University of Otago, and are currently focusing on grapefruit extract.

Compounds in grapefruit have been shown to promote healing through the stimulation of new blood vessels.

One of the leading causes of chronic wounds in New Zealand is diabetes.

Of the 106,000 people with Type II diabetes, 15 percent will develop a foot ulcer during the course of their disease and up to a quarter of these patients will require lower limb amputation, Industrial Research biochemist, Keryn Johnson, says.

“Wound healing is currently the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

“With these new natural-based therapies we hope to be the barrier at the top of the cliff – avoiding the necessity of an amputation for millions of people worldwide.”

Thirty-five percent of the cost of diabetes treatment is attributed to diabetic foot ulcers, leading to progressive amputations, Industrial Research business manager, Tom Nicolle, says.

Treatment of diabetic foot ulcers in New Zealand today is based largely on prevention. No effective therapies exist to heal these devastating wounds, which currently cost New Zealand's health care system $87 million per year, he says.

“A company that develops such a product will have access to a global market of $1.5 billion for bioactive therapies. The total number of patients with chronic wounds worldwide is a staggering 12.5 million.”

A patent on the grapefruit extract is currently being applied for in New Zealand and internationally.

Wound healing is fundamental to tissue regeneration. Dr Johnson says wound healing is becoming a rapidly growing global problem due to the rise in rates of obesity, the epidemic increase in Type II diabetes, and changing population demographics.

Researchers hope to develop topical therapies for treating initially acute wounds, and also to identify the active components allowing development of therapies for the treatment of chronic wounds.


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