Tens of millions of people across the world are afflicted with wounds that may never heal. Dr. Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology at UC Riverside, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund research that can help diagnose earlier and prevent the traumatic effects of chronic wounds.
Examples of common non-healing ailments include diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers (e.g. bed sores), leg ulcers, and other similar chronic wounds. These are known to have a large impact on health, affecting over 6.5 million people and costing in excess of $25 billion per year in the US alone. Dr. Martins-Green’s has led the development of a “WoundCure” gene chip that allows doctors to prevent these and other problems by determining quickly which wounds require aggressive treatment.
“The goal of this project is to develop a powerful diagnostic tool called a gene chip that can be used in doctors’ offices and hospitals to predict how a patient’s chronic (“non-healing”) wound should be treated in order to increase the chance that it will heal,” explained Dr. Martins-Green. “Tens of millions of people across the world are afflicted with wounds that may never heal, but this area doesn’t receive as much attention as it deserves.”
According to Green, the probability of becoming diabetic is higher than ever before; many diabetics develop foot wounds that do not heal, requiring limb amputation. It is well known that when limbs are amputated because of non-healing wounds, the patient does not live more than about 5 years (the same life expectancy of a very aggressive cancer). She adds that another big problem is bedsores, which are open wounds that can become infected and the infection can spread throughout the body, killing the person quickly.
Dr. Martins-Green and her team are using the crowdfunding campaign to use commercially-available gene chips, called microarrays, to identify which genes in the wound tissue have been altered. The more genes that are altered in the patient’s wound the more difficult the wound will be to treat. With the WoundCure gene chip, patients with non-healing wounds will quickly be diagnosed so that the appropriate treatment can be prescribed. Unfortunately, without a diagnostic tool like the WoundCure gene chip, insurance companies cannot justify providing an aggressive treatment; they require that the most common treatments for all wounds be first applied in order to save money. This means that by the time the more aggressive treatments are applied the wound is much more advanced and now even these treatments will probably not work.
Dr. Martins-Green hopes that a successful crowdfunding campaign will not only result in the funding necessary to develop WoundCare, but would also spark investments from either the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or other funding agencies to develop new treatments for chronic wounds. As of August 20, 2013 the campaign has reached nearly 50% of its goal with 40 days remaining.