A new drug discovered at Stanford University School of Medicine may help to prevent foot amputations.
The study, presented this week at the American College of Surgeons Annual Clinical Congress, suggests that the drug, which is delivered through a skin patch, both accelerates the healing of foot injuries and prevents them from occurring again.
Amputation is one of the most severe risks associated with poorly-managed diabetes. Geoffrey Gurtner, MD, FACS, the Johnson and Johnson Professor of Surgery and associate chairman of surgery for research at Stanford University School of Medicine, believes that foot ulcers are largely responsible for foot amputations. He also claimed that the lives of diabetic people get worse after their amputations.
“It’s not just having your leg surgically removed,” he said. “An amputation sends these patients into a downward spiral where they are not active. The, all the other health issues that accompany inactivity come into play.
“A diabetic patient who undergoes an amputation has a 50 percent five-year mortality, which is worse than breast cancer or Hodgkin’s disease.”
People with diabetes should be particularly wary of foot ulcers, because the decreased blood flow caused by their condition stops the wound healing properly.
Moreover, diabetes impairs the protein hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha, which is responsible for the genes that heal damaged tissue. The new drug increases the protein.
The research will be developed through clinical trials, performed on diabetes patients who are at risk of foot ulcers.
Dr. Gurtner concluded that “once we prove that it works, I could see this drug one day becoming the first line of treatment for diabetic ulcers and preventative foot care.”

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