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Nanotech Lotion Speeds Diabetic Wound Healing

Over-the-counter moisturizers fortified with specialized nanoparticles can regulate genes that interfere with wound healing.

By Carl Engelking
Feb 25, 2016 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 4:52 AM


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A store-bought moisturizer could become a high-tech remedy for chronic diabetic wounds, thanks to the addition of specialized gold nanoparticles.

Scientists at Northwestern University fortified an over-the-counter lotion with spherical nucleic acids — gold nanoparticles encrusted with the building blocks of DNA and RNA. The team arranged the acids in a specific order to turn off a gene that prevents wounds from healing in Type 2 diabetics.

Standard gene-regulation therapies require painful injections to flip a genetic on-off switch. But with this approach, the team simply applied the lotion to diabetic mice’s sores. The nanoparticles infiltrated skin cells, knocked out a gene that produces an enzyme known to interfere with healing, and the wounds closed.

“This is an entirely new approach for treating diabetic wounds,” says study co-author and Northwestern dermatologist Amy Paller. The treatment could prevent thousands of diabetic wound-related amputations annually in the U.S.

The technique is also customizable and works with most commercial skin lotions. Theoretically, scientists could sequence the nanoparticles to target and treat any of the more than 200 genetically based skin disorders.

[This article originally appeared in print as "Good as Gold."]

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