A new study found that the topical application of simvastatin enhanced healing in diabetic mice.
Using a statin, a cholesterol-lowering drug, as an ointment may hold promise for helping people with diabetes, a study suggests. The new study found that the topical application of simvastatin accelerated wound healing in genetically diabetic mice. The findings were published in the December issue of The American Journal of Pathology. Though the work was done in mice, the researchers hope the benefits will apply to humans as well once tried in future studies. Previous research has shown that statins can support blood vessel development, according to the study.
If statins are applied topically instead of taken orally, there are fewer risks of serious side effects. Topical applications of medications have less side effects systemically, said Rita Kalyani, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She was not involved in the study. Scientists at Kyoto Prefectural University School of Medicine, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine and the Shiseido Innovative Scientific Research Center in Japan tested whether a statin's ability to promote blood vessel growth could help in diabetes. In diabetes, the body does not sufficiently make or properly use insulin, a hormone. With such a problem, sugar builds in the blood. This condition can harm blood vessels and nerves. Diabetes complications include skin ulcers and impaired wound healing.
The researchers treated wounds on the mice with a topical application of simvastatin in petroleum jelly or petroleum jelly alone. The difference in wound closure was most pronounced on the seventh day of the experiment. The simvastatin-treated wounds were 79.26% healed. The wounds treated with just petroleum jelly were 52.45% healed.
The findings show that topical simvastatin increases the growth of new blood and lymphatic vessels, Jun Asai, the study's lead author, said in a statement. Lymphatic vessels, which carry lymph fluid through the body, support the immune system. "Although there are several problems to be solved such as the establishment of proper concentrations and the frequency of application, it is my emphatic opinion that this method … can be a new effective choice for the treatment of diabetic ulcers," Asai, of Kyoto Prefectural University School of Medicine, said in an e-mail.
David Armstrong, a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, urged caution. "It is very premature to draw a broad conclusion based on this study. It is a mouse study." Armstrong, who was not involved in this experiment, said seeing whether this study can be replicated and taken to the level of human trials could further test this approach. Johns Hopkins' Kalyani called the study "relatively small" and said more research needs to be done on the topical formulation of simvastatin, its potential side effects and the durability of its effect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the International Diabetes Federation project the number of diabetes cases will continue to increase, Kalyani said. "There is definitely a need for this kind of research to be done."