Honey to heal wounds in diabetics

Chronic foot ulcers can lead to disease-associated amputations

January 27, 2018 06:33 pm | Updated 06:33 pm IST

Honey, a traditional medicine used for thousands of years, has now been proved to heal wounds as well. Researchers from IIT Kharagpur have reported that honey can be used for healing wounds in diabetics.

Treatment of diabetic chronic foot ulcers is an unmet clinical challenge and often leads to disease-associated amputations. In diabetic patients, the micro- and macro-vascular alterations cause nerve damage and tissue hypoxia. The abnormalities in the inflammatory pathways lead to development of infectious non-healing foot wounds. Diabetes also affects the synthesis and alignment of collagen fibres which are the main requirements for wound healing. The research published in Wound Medicine reported that honey improves collagen synthesis thus helping wounds to heal.

Healing honey

“We first characterised the physical and chemical properties of honey. Honey contains amino acids like proline, arginine and glutamic acid. The ascorbic acid in the honey stimulates the quick maturation of collagen fibres needed for wound healing. It can also prevent scarring and minimises hypoxic assaults on cells,” says Dr Jyotirmoy Chatterjee, Associate Professor at the School of Medical Science and Technology, IIT Kharagpur.

Animal studies have shown that an acidic pH (3.3-3.9) reduces protease activity and increases release of oxygen to promote tissue regeneration and growth of fibroblasts. Topical application of honey caused this acidification and this might be responsible for promoting wound healing. Antioxidant content and radical scavenging activities of honey possibly play a crucial role in controlling over production of reactive oxygen species in diabetic wounds and helps in angiogenesis. Imaging studies showed that honey-treated wound bed achieved organised collagen distribution like normal skin.

“Further tests have been carried out using cell culture, in vitro gene expression and in vivo studies on human subjects,” says Dr Chatterjee. The researchers have developed a honey-based film/membrane, which can be used as a wound-healing patch. The patch has been patented.

According to Amrita Chaudhary, one of the authors of the paper, work is one to characterise the bioactive constituents of different Indian honey samples such as polyphenolics and sugar and developing honey-incorporated silk fibroin patch. The patch has nano-patterned and micro-pillar substrates with improved cellular compatibility.

“Honey embedded silk fibroin patch with micro-pillar matrix acts differentially on normal and fibrosis associated fibroblasts,” says Monika Rajput from the lab.

However, the molecular pathway through which the honey endorses collagen regeneration is yet to be investigated.

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