April 21, 2022

Youthful healing for burn wounds

Topical treatment of burns with an immunosuppressive drug counteracted the negative effects of aging on wound healing, Vanderbilt researchers have discovered.

Compared to younger patients, elderly patients have more complications, longer hospital admissions, and higher death rates from burn injuries. It is thought that age-related dysregulation of the immune system in the geriatric population can worsen burn injuries via a prolonged inflammatory response. 

Reporting in the journal Burns, Colin White-Dzuro and colleagues treated burn injuries in young and older mice with tacrolimus, an immunosuppressive drug, and compared outcomes to control mice. 

The researchers found that topical treatment of tacrolimus with a hydrogel dressing reduced the depth of burn injuries in older mice to the same level as in young mice, effectively counteracting age-related differences in burn outcomes. Topical treatment was shown to have a greater effect than systemic treatment (tacrolimus injections). 

While further study is needed, these results suggest that topical tacrolimus treatment in older patients, by dampening the inflammatory response, may allow burn wounds to heal with the reduced morbidity and mortality that is seen in younger patients.

This work was partially supported by a 2018 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Physician-Scientist Institutional Award and National Institutes of Health grant NS110665.