Do Your Wounds Take Forever to Heal? Your Genes Could Be the Reason
Article originally featured on Runner's World
According to a new study published in PLOS Pathogens, your genetics may impact how fast or slow your cuts and scrapes heal.
Maybe you take a spill on an asphalt path and scrape your knees, and on that same day, a fellow runner friend does the same on a trail run. Days later, your friend only has minor evidence of the incident, while your scrapes still look fresh. Is it the difference between dirt and pavement?
The more likely answer is that the difference could be related to genetics, according to new research.
The study, published in PLOS Pathogens, found that genetic variability across 164 patients influences the composition of wounds and how they heal. Specifically, the forms of bacteria present in wounds have a genetic component that could make it easier to identify who would struggle with slower wound healing.
Researchers found that genetic variation in two genes, TLN2 and ZNF521, was associated with both the number of bacteria in wounds and the prevalence of common pathogens that causes slower healing.
It’s important to note that the study was done on chronic wounds, which don’t heal under a normal time frame, according to lead study author Caleb Phillips, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences and curator of genetic resources at Texas Tech University.
About two percent of Americans are afflicted with these kind of wounds, and they can be costly and frustrating to treat. Finding a genetic link like this could be a first step toward creating prevention strategies or developing new treatments, he told Runner’s World. It could also be used to identify patients who need to receive more aggressive therapy early on in wound care, rather than waiting weeks for the body’s healing process to kick in.
You can’t swap out your genes to help speed up the healing of your wounds. But there actually are some tactics that may cut down on healing time, previous research has found.
For example, get more sleep. A 2018 study in Journal of Applied Physiology that measured immune response and “skin barrier restoration” on people with minor blisters found that those who had restricted sleep showed slower wound healing than those who got adequate shuteye.
Good nutrition also plays a part, and research done on older people with chronic wound issues, which was published in Advanced Wound Care, found that common micro-nutrient deficiencies—particularly vitamin D, zinc, and B12—could have a significant impact on wound healing.
Lifestyle changes like those mentioned above might not counteract genetic differences completely, but they may speed up healing to some degree, and also provide all the other benefits of quality sleep and good nutrition.