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Blueberries could be key to treating non-healing wounds

A compound found in wild blueberries may speed up the process of wound healing, according to new research. The results of the study suggest that blueberry extract could dramatically improve wound healing, and may ultimately reduce the massive cost of $50 billion that is spent on wound care each year. 

Diabetic ulcers and other non-healing wounds often develop among the elderly. These wounds persist due to a reduced development of nutrient-rich blood vessels, which is known as vascularization. A lack of vascularity is associated with diabetes, vascular disease and other conditions. The trouble is, vascularity is critical for the efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to support tissue and wound healing.

In a previous study that was focused on human umbilical cord cells, researchers at the University of Maine found that a phenolic extract from wild blueberries improved vascularization and cell migration – critical steps in the healing process.

For the current study, a team of experts led by Dr. Dorothy Klimis-Zacas analyzed the effects of phenolic extract on wounds. Found naturally in some foods, phenols are compounds that serve as antioxidants, which can prevent and even reverse some types of cell damage.

Using a mouse model, the experts treated a group of animals with a topical gel that contained a wild blueberry phenolic extract. These mice were compared with animals that were treated with a base gel lacking the phenolic extract, and with a control group that received no treatment.

The experiment revealed that the treated mice exhibited improved migration of endothelial cells to the wound site, as well as a 12 percent increase in wound closure.

“Wild blueberries have the potential to enhance cell migration, new blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) and vascularization and to speed up wound closure,” said study first author Tolu Esther Adekeye. “This is especially important in conditions that require enhanced wound closure in patients with chronic wounds such as diabetic wounds, burns and pressure ulcers.”

The study will be presented this week in Philadelphia at the American Physiological Society’s (APS) annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2022.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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