Scientist and dermatologist Amy S. Paller and chemist Chad A. Mirkin are the first to develop a topical gene regulation technology that speeds the healing of ulcers in diabetic animals. They combined spherical nucleic acids (SNAs, which are nanoscale globular forms of RNA) with a common commercial moisturizer to create a way to topically knock down a gene known to interfere with wound healing.
Type 2 diabetes and its enormous associated costs are on the rise in the United States. More than one-fifth of the 27 million type 2 diabetics in the country have chronic, non-healing skin wounds, and many undergo amputation. The Northwestern discovery offers a possible solution to this serious problem.
“Finding a new way to effectively heal these resistant diabetic wounds is very exciting,” said Dr. Paller, director of Northwestern’s Skin Disease Research Center. “But, in addition, this study further proved that SNAs—in nothing but common moisturizer—can penetrate the skin barrier, a challenge that other therapies have been unable to conquer.”