Researcher Gets $431,700 to Study the Effects of Meth on Wounds

Ever wonder why meth wounds don't heal? One researcher is set to find out.
Ever wonder why meth wounds don't heal? One researcher is set to find out.

It’s widely known that meth use can lead to a multitude of health problems: rotten teeth, memory loss, a weakened immune system. Nobody knows this better than Luis Martinez, microbiologist and associate professor of biomedical sciences at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT).

What’s Going on Under the Skin?

Martinez has spent years studying the relationship between methamphetamine and pulmonary bacterial infections.

But after a family vacation in southern California, a chance encounter shifted his focus to another well-known side effect of meth: skin lesions.

While at a restaurant, Martinez saw a man and woman with what he believed to be hallmark indicators of meth use – decayed teeth, needle marks, and open lesions covering their arms.

The lesions specifically caught his eye, and his observation of the couple triggered questions about the body’s immunological response to wounds caused by meth use. What made these wounds refuse to heal and why did meth users want to scratch them?

Now, Martinez will be able research the impact methamphetamine has on wounds – the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded him a three-year grant of $431,700 to find answers to his questions.

Meth Effects on Wound Healing

Martinez will conduct his research with three NYIT students, along with scientists from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and The George Washington University. As part of the study, researchers will determine the impact meth has on white blood cells, which play a key role in wound healing. Using images of cells in wounds from meth-injected mice, they will also study the drug’s effect on the production of a particular protein gene called IL-6. Those results will be compared with mice who haven’t received the drug, as well as others who have been injected with a combination of other substances.

Based on Martinez’s preliminary studies, meth has been found to cause an overproduction of IL-6, which delays the body’s inflammatory response and ability to heal. His goal, then, is to see how he can decrease the amount of that specific protein and enhance healing.

Martinez hopes the NIH grant will allow him to take his preliminary studies a step further and raise awareness about the devastating effects of meth use. He also hopes his findings can form the foundation for new studies that might lead to targeted prevention and wound management down the road.

Image Source: iStock

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