Wounds naturally produce electric signals which serve as powerful cues that stimulate and guide cell migration during wound healing. In diabetic patients, impaired wound healing is one of the most challenging complications in diabetes management. A fundamental gap in knowledge is whether diabetic wounds have abnormal electric signaling. Here we used a vibrating probe to demonstrate that diabetic corneas produced significantly weaker wound electric signals than the normal cornea. This was confirmed in three independent animal models of diabetes: db/db, streptozotocin-induced and mice fed a high-fat diet. Spatial measurements illustrated that diabetic cornea wound currents at the wound edge but not wound center were significantly weaker than normal. Time lapse measurements revealed that the electric currents at diabetic corneas lost the normal rising and plateau phases. The abnormal electric signals correlated significantly with impaired wound healing. Immunostaining suggested lower expression of chloride channel 2 and cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator in diabetic corneal epithelium. Acute high glucose exposure significantly (albeit moderately) reduced electrotaxis of human corneal epithelial cells in vitro, but did not affect the electric currents at cornea wounds. These data suggest that weaker wound electric signals and impaired electrotaxis may contribute to the impaired wound healing in diabetes.
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