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Manuela Martins-Green

Professor of Cell Biology
Wound Care:
Chronic or non-healing wounds take an immense toll on American health and on health care systems. It particularly affects millions of patients with impaired mobility, as well as those with diabetes. UCR scientists have discovered that applying insulin directly to skin wounds significantly enhanced the healing process.

Areas of Expertise

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • 2007-2008 UCR Academic Personnel Innovative Teaching Award
  • 2007-2008 UCR Academic Senate Distinguished Campus Service Award
  • 2008 Program co-Chair for the Wound Healing Society Annual Meeting
  • 2004 American Heart Association panel on cardiovascular biology
  • 2004-06 Chair of the Academic Senate for the UCR division of the UC
  • 2003 Main speaker at the Gordon Conference in Vascular Biology, Ventura, CA
  • 2002 Chair, Bioengineering Session, Wound Healing Society annual meeting
  • 2001- Member, Standing Committee on Women in Cell Biology of the American Society for Cell Biology


Q: Why is research on wound-healing important?
Healing is the basic process of defense of our bodies to injury. Understanding the basic mechanisms of repair of injury teaches us about the fundamental processes by which our bodies maintain and rebuild themselves. Moreover, by elucidating the basic mechanisms of normal healing it is possible to better understand what goes wrong when wounds become impaired and then chronic. In addition, because tumors are considered to be wounds that do not heal it is also possible to infer what microenvironmental factors become conducive to tumor growth and development.

Q: What is the most common myth about wounds?
That impaired and chronic wounds are a problem only of old people. This is indeed not true. There are many situations in which chronic wounds develop as a result of people being immobilized for prolonged periods of time, such as in the case of accidents or when one is a paraplegic. For example, Christopher Reeve died not from the problems that resulted from falling off his horse but as a result of an open sore that developed because he spent so much time in a wheelchair. Essentially, he got a systemic infection that resulted in complications that claimed his life. Another group of people who are very much at the risk of similar complications are those with type II diabetes. As we know today, these people are not all elderly. In fact, type II diabetes is on the rise worldwide and is now becoming a serious problem even in children.

Q: What research is your lab doing?
My lab is working on the regenerative capacity of the tissue and in improving healing. We are particularly interested in developing treatments for large burns. Through collaborations, we are developing matrices that are biocompatible, can be applied in large areas, and are biodegradable — either naturally or by applying an enzyme. My lab is also working on understanding how wound healing relates to cigarette smoking and diabetes.

Q: What distinguishes UCR from other universities and institutions where your field of research is concerned?
My laboratory is the leading laboratory in the world in studying chemokines and wound healing. A search through the Web of Knowledge on chemokines and wound healing, with an analysis of the results, shows that UCR has more citations with these key words than any other institution.

Q: What motivates you to continue to pursue your research goals?
My scientific research fascinates me. It gives me a rush to find answers to specific questions that no researcher has answered before. At the same time I know my work can have a major impact on the lives of others. I am interested in gathering information that can be applied to medical care. Most recently, we worked on describing how cigarette smoke-induced inhibition of cornea healing can be overcome by simultaneously treating the cornea wounds with anti-inflammatory agents to prevent the inflammation and molecules that stimulate the epithelial cells of the cornea to migrate and close the wound fast.

Q: What is the next major research breakthrough in your field?
My field is in desperate need of development of an animal model of chronic wounds. When we accomplish this we will be able to truly understand what causes wounds to become impaired and then chronic. Currently, all we can do is to analyze the already existing chronic wounds in humans and make guesses as to what has gone wrong rather than being able to decipher the underlying mechanisms involved in the inability to heal.

Q: What books are you currently reading?
Currently, I am reading “Wherever you go there you are,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s about mindfulness meditation in everyday life.
Manuela Martins-Green "Understanding the basic mechanisms of repair of injury teaches us about the fundamental processes by which our bodies maintain and rebuild themselves."

Manuela Martins-Green