Researchers shed new light on cause of bedsores and other chronic wounds

A study conducted by NYU School of Medicine researchers, in collaboration with the Wound Healing Program at Columbia University, sheds new light on the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of chronic wounds. The findings may help clinicians predict which wounds are likely to become chronic -- a key bit of information, since the sooner treatment is started, the better the outcome. The research also raises the hope for new treatments for chronic wounds by identifying possible targets for intervention.

Chronic wounds, which include bedsores, are a common and potentially life-threatening problem, typically occurring in people with diabetes or poor circulation, the elderly, and anyone who is bedridden or wheelchair-bound. Bedsores -- also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers -- have been estimated to affect about five to ten percent of hospital patients, 13 percent of nursing home residents, and up to 39 percent of spinal cord injury patients in the United States. Chronic wounds can lead to widespread infections and limb amputations, says Marjana Tomic-Canic, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Dermatology and Microbiology at NYU School of Medicine, the study's lead author.

Studying tissue taken from chronic wounds in humans, the researchers discovered that skin cells get stuck in the middle of the normal healing process and cannot migrate to the wound site. The stalling of the healing process, the researchers discovered, is caused by overabundance of a molecule called c-myc (a product of the ubiquitous myc gene, which has been implicated in many human cancers). This molecule is known to suppress cell migration and to cause the skin to thicken, obstructing reparative cells from reaching the edge of the wound.

The cause of c-myc overproduction was then traced one step up the molecular pathway to beta-catenin, a critical regulator of cell behavior. According to the researchers, beta-catenin activates the production of c-myc as well as

Contact: Marjorie Shaffer
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine

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