Not all sugars are bad for health. Some can, in fact, help in treating poorly healing wounds such as diabetic and chronic ulcers in elderly people, according to a joint study by researchers from UK and Pakistan.

The research, conducted in part by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the School of Clinical Dentistry at the University of Sheffield and the Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Biomedical Materials Research at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Lahore, found that sugar can help in new blood vessel formation, also known as angiogenesis.Previous research showed that cell therapy could heal wounds and save diabetics from amputation.

The researchers added sugar to a hydrogel bandage to stimulate the formation of new blood vessels, which are crucial for wound healing as blood vessels carry blood around the body to supply it with oxygen and nutrients. The new use of sugar may help tackle the increasing number of non-healing skin wounds associated with age, poor blood supply, and diabetes, and even save money for health care providers, the researchers said.

This successful method is much more simple and cost-effective than more traditional methods such as adding inexpensive short-lived growth factors, they said. The new technique works because a specific group of sugars can stimulate skin healing. “Throughout the world, people are living longer and unfortunately experiencing more non-healing skin wounds associated with age, poor blood supply, and diabetes. These are often difficult to treat and are very expensive for healthcare systems to manage,” said Sheila MacNeil, Professor at the University of Sheffield.

“The new skin healing technique using simple sugars, promises to aid in wound healing more simply, meaning patients would need less treatment, clinicians could treat more patients and significant savings could be made by national healthcare systems,” MacNeil said.

The research is a key step to developing simple, robust and low-cost wound dressings that can be used to treat poorly healing wounds such as chronic ulcers in the elderly and diabetic ulcers. The research was published in journal Materials Today Communications.

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