A new study suggests that umbilical cord tissue could one day be used to treat chronic, non-healing diabetic foot ulcers. EpiCord, a thick membrane product produced from umbilical cords, has been studied and tested as a form of wound dressing and healing for the ulcers.
Diabetes affects around 23.1 million people in the US and 4 million in the UK. Treating diabetes patients cost $245 billion in 2012 alone, and this number has increased by 41% to date. Diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) make up a significant proportion of this cost, as they increase the risk of infection and amputation.
In this recently completed study, scientists compared the safety and efficacy of using dehydrated umbilical cord allograft (EpiCord), against standard alginate wound dressing for treating chronic DFUs. EpiCord tissue and amniotic fluids have recently been recognised for their therapeutic and healing potential. They contain a multitude of biological compounds including collagen, proteoglycans, and hyaluronic acid, which encourage the healing process in difficult tissue wounds.
The study was performed on 155 patients across 11 hospital and private clinics in the USA between August 2016 and March 2018. Participants over the age of 18 with a history of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and presence of a DFU were enrolled to participate. The study spanned 18 weeks, including a 12 week treatment phase and 4 week follow-up tests.
During the 12 weeks of treatment, 101 of the patients received a weekly application of EpiCord, while 54 received standard dressing therapy to their wounds. After frequent cleaning and check-ups, 70% of EpiCord-treated ulcers healed completely within 12 weeks. In comparison, only 48% of alginate-treated ulcers completely healed. Furthermore, of those participants who received adequate wound debridement (the removal of damaged tissue), 96% of EpiCord-treated ulcers healed completely compared to 48% of alginate-treated ulcers.
With no adverse side effects to EpiCord reported during the study, these results positively indicate that umbilical cord-derived product, such as EpiCord, can be safely used to treat non-healing diabetic foot ulcers.