Topical naltrexone accelerates full-thickness wound closure in type 1 diabetic rats by stimulating angiogenesis

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Delays in wound healing often result in infection, chronic ulceration, and possible amputation of extremities. Impaired wound healing is a major complication of the 23 million people in the USA with diabetes, and financial and medical burdens are demanding new treatments for wound healing. Previous studies have demonstrated that topical application of the opioid antagonist naltrexone (NTX) dissolved in moisturizing cream reverses delays in wound closure in rats with streptozotocin-induced type 1 diabetes. A target of NTX's action is DNA synthesis and cell proliferation. In this study, granulation tissue was evaluated to ascertain the specific cellular targets that were impaired in diabetic wounds, as well as those that were enhanced following NTX application. Mast cell number as well as the number of new blood vessels immunoreactive to fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and alpha smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) antibodies were recorded at 3, 5, 8, 10, 15, and 20 days following creation of full-thickness dorsal cutaneous wounds in normal and type 1 diabetic rats. Diabetic rats displayed delays in wound closure as well as a reduction in the number of mast cells responding to the injury, and delays in the spatial and temporal expression of FGF-2, VEGF, and α-SMA in capillaries. Topical NTX accelerated the rate of wound closure and stimulated expression of angiogenic factors within granulation tissue of diabetic rats relative to control animals receiving saline in moisturizing cream. These data support observations that a novel biological pathway is impaired under diabetic conditions and can be modulated by topical NTX to enhance proliferative events in wound healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-743
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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