THURSDAY, Nov. 29, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Applying a common cholesterol-lowering drug, Zocor (simvastatin), to the skin appears to speed wound healing in diabetic mice, a new study shows.
The Japanese researchers said their findings might have significant implications for people with diabetes, who often develop serious complications, including amputation, because of delayed wound healing. They also pointed out that if the drug could be applied to the skin, and not taken by mouth, patients might be able to avoid possible side effects, such as kidney damage.
But the research is still preliminary, and whether the results seen in the mice would apply to humans is not known. Experts note that results from animal research are not always replicated in humans.
The findings are published in the December issue of the American Journal of Pathology.
"We know that there are several factors involved in delayed wound healing in diabetes," lead investigator Dr. Jun Asai, of the department of dermatology at Kyoto Prefectural University School of Medicine, said in a journal news release. These factors include more rapid cell death, reduced growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) and impaired formation of new lymphatic vessels (lymphangiogenesis), the researchers said.
"This study shows that topical simvastatin [Zocor] significantly accelerates wound recovery by increasing both angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis," Asai said.
In conducting the study, the investigators treated full-thickness skin wounds on the backs of diabetic mice with topical Zocor in petroleum jelly or petroleum jelly alone. The treatment was repeated after four, seven and 10 days.
The study revealed that after two weeks, the wounds treated with Zocor were more than 90 percent healed. Meanwhile, the wounds treated with just petroleum jelly were less than 80 percent healed.
The researchers pointed out that the most notable difference was seen after one week of treatment. By day seven, the simvastatin-treated wounds were 79 percent healed while the petroleum jelly-treated wounds were just 52 percent better.
"This is a simple strategy that may have significant therapeutic potential for enhancing wound-healing in patients with impaired microcirculation, such as that in diabetes," Asai noted. However, "further investigation is needed," concluded Asai and colleagues at the Kyoto Prefectural University School of Medicine, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, and Shiseido Innovative Scientific Research Center in Yamamoto.
The American Diabetes Association has more about diabetes and wound care.