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The National Institutes of Health has awarded Montana State University's Center for Biofilm Engineering a $2.9 million grant to find new ways to heal chronic wounds.

The money will allow the center to fund undergraduate research, hire more doctoral-level researchers and purchase equipment for its investigation into the role biofilms play in chronic wounds. The money will be distributed over four years.

Biofilms are bacteria that grab onto a surface, build a colony and then secrete a protective slime that makes them nearly invulnerable to antibiotics and disinfectants. Biofilms can foul drinking water systems, industrial pipelines and cause hard-to-kill infections on medical implants.

"Our hypothesis is that once a biofilm starts in a wound it interferes with the normal healing process and becomes very tough to eradicate," said Phil Stewart, Center for Biofilm Engineering director. "However, there is much science still to be done. Biofilms' involvement in chronic wounds is not widely accepted. This is new territory."

Tens of thousands of long-term medical patients and elderly get bedsores that turn into chronic wounds annually. Due to the poor blood circulation of many diabetics, a foot sore can develop into an open ulcer that won't heal.

For diabetics, such wounds contribute to a foot or lower-leg amputation rate 10 to 15 times higher than non-diabetics. Eighty percent of diabetics who underwent amputation for chronic wounds died within five years, according to a Finnish study.

The incidence of chronic wounds in the United States has grown. That trend is expected to continue with the steady increase in adult and child obesity. One-in-3 Americans born in 2000 are expected to develop diabetes if current trends continue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CBE's research into chronic wounds began two years ago, after it was contacted by Dr. Randy Wolcott, who heads the Southw
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Source:Montana State University


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