Diminished neuropeptide levels contribute to the impaired cutaneous healing response associated with diabetes mellitus

Nicole S. Gibran, Young Chul Jang, F. Frank Isik, David G. Greenhalgh, Lara A. Muffley, Robert A. Underwood, Marcia L. Usui, Jerrie Larsen, Douglas G. Smith, Nigel Bunnett, John C. Ansel, John E. Olerud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Patients with diabetic sensory neuropathy have significant risk of chronic ulcers. Insufficient nerve-derived mediators such as substance P (SP) may contribute to the impaired response to injury. Mutant diabetic mice (db/db), which develop neuropathy and have delayed healing, may provide a model to study the role of nerves in cutaneous injury. Methods. Skin from human chronic nonhealing ulcers and age-matched control skin was immunohistochemically evaluated for nerves. Nerve counts were also compared in murine diabetic (C57BL/KsJ-m+/+ Leprdb; db/db) and nondiabetic (db/-) skin. Excisional wounds on the backs of db/db and db/- mice were grouped as: (a) untreated db/- mice; (b) untreated db/db mice; (c) db/db mice with polyethylene glycol (PEG); (d) db/db mice with PEG and SP 10-9 M; or (e) db/db mice with PEG and SP 10-6 M. Results. We demonstrated fewer nerves in the epidermis and papillary dermis of skin from human subjects with diabetes. Likewise, db/db murine skin had significantly fewer epidermal nerves than nondiabetic littermates. We confirmed increased healing times in db/db mice (51.7 days) compared to db/- littermates (19.8 days; P ≥ 0.001). SP 10-6M M (44 days; P = 0.02) and SP 10-9 M (45 days; P = 0.03) shortened time to closure compared to PEG treatment alone (68 days). Since there was no difference in the percentage contraction in these treatment groups, SP may favorably promote wound epithelization. Conclusions. Our data support the use of db/db murine excisional wounds to evaluate the role of nerves in healing. We have demonstrated that exogenous SP improves wound healing kinetics in an animal model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-128
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Innervation
  • Neuropeptide
  • Substance P
  • Wound repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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