Stem cell therapy for diabetic foot ulcers: a review of preclinical and clinical research

Stem Cell Res Ther. 2018 Jul 11;9(1):188. doi: 10.1186/s13287-018-0938-6.


Background: Diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) is a severe complication of diabetes, preceding most diabetes-related amputations. DFUs require over US$9 billion for yearly treatment and are now a global public health issue. DFU occurs in the setting of ischemia, infection, neuropathy, and metabolic disorders that result in poor wound healing and poor treatment options. Recently, stem cell therapy has emerged as a new interventional strategy to treat DFU and appears to be safe and effective in both preclinical and clinical trials. However, variability in the stem cell type and origin, route and protocol for administration, and concomitant use of angioplasty confound easy interpretation and generalization of the results.

Methods: The PubMed, Google Scholar, and EMBASE databases were searched and 89 preclinical and clinical studies were selected for analysis.

Results: There was divergence between preclinical and clinical studies regarding stem cell type, origin, and delivery techniques. There was heterogeneous preclinical and clinical study design and few randomized clinical trials. Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor was employed in some studies but with differing protocols. Concomitant performance of angioplasty with stem cell therapy showed increased efficiency compared to either therapy alone.

Conclusions: Stem cell therapy is an effective treatment for diabetic foot ulcers and is currently used as an alternative to amputation for some patients without other options for revascularization. Concordance between preclinical and clinical studies may help design future randomized clinical trials.

Keywords: Amputation; Cell therapy; Critical limb ischemia; Diabetic foot ulcer; Diabetic wound; Stem cell therapy; Wound healing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amputation / methods*
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods*
  • Diabetes Complications / therapy*
  • Diabetic Foot / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Wound Healing