Notre Dame researcher working to improve diabetic foot ulcers

NOW: Notre Dame researcher working to improve diabetic foot ulcers

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- A drug being developed could change the lives of people living with diabetes. 

It would better treat diabetic foot ulcers. 

Nearly 15 percent of diabetics develop foot ulcers and in 14 to 24 percent of those patients require an amputation.

High sugar levels can cause numbness in a diabetic’s foot. As a result, Mayland Chang, a research professor at the University of Notre Dame studying chronic ulcers, says cuts to the lower part of a person’s leg often go undetected causing infections that result in amputations. 

 Research says foot ulcers precceded 85 percent of those diabetes-related amputations. 

“They may not be able to walk or take care of themselves,” said Chang. “The prognosis for patients with diabetic foot ulcers, it’s poor.” 

Chang says nearly 50 percent of people with diabetes-related amputations die with three to five years of the limb loss. 

“It also affects organs in the body,” said Chang. “That’s why the prognosis is this poor.” 

However Chang thinks those statistics can improve with a drug she and fellow researchers developed called ND336. 

“We wanted to understand why they [foot ulcers] stall at the inflamation stage and what can be done to heal them,” said Chang. 

They found an enzyme, called MMP-9, prevented the wounds from healing while another enzyme, called MMP-8, promoted healing. 

Chang says ND336 blocks MMP-9 while allowing MMP-8 to carry out its healing role. 

If approved by the FDA, Chang imagines patients applying ND336 to their ulcers once or twice a week until the wound is healed. 

“We’re very excited because we can see in patient’s wound tissues that this could be beneficial and it could be beneficial to patients who have the more severe and infected for which there is very limited options for them,” said Chang. 

The Department of Defense award Chang a $4.6 million grant earlier this year. The money allows her to run investigational new drug studies which Chang needs to conduct before going to the FDA to start human trials.

“We’re really excited to get this to patients and see whether it works,” said Chang. 

Chang is hopeful, partially because this is a topic close to home. 

“Diabetes is in my family on my mother’s side,” said Chang. 

Chang is a diabetic who lost her mom and aunt to the disease. He sister is also living with diabetes. 

She expects phase one of human trials to start in 2021. 

“I hope that with this research that this drug can come to the market and really can save the limbs and ultimately the lives of so many people with diabetic foot ulcers,” said Chang. 

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