Photo: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
This is a nifty if still early-in-development bit of science. This week, scientists at Harvard and elsewhere said they had created a novel type of dressing that could quickly heal all sorts of wounds. The gel-based, heat-activated design was inspired by the Wolverine-like skin we have when we're in the womb.
It is well known that our fetal skin can be completely regenerated when injured, without scarring. This happens, at least partially, because embryonic cells produce protein fibers that quickly and tightly close and contract the skin around a wound. As adults, our skin cells can still do this, but nowhere to the same degree.
The research team, which also includes scientists from McGill University in Canada, says they've found a way to coax our skin back into his younger self, healing-wise.
An illustration of how active adhesive dressing (AAD) Illustration: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
According to the study, the active adhesive dressings, as they've been called, are made of "thermoresponsive hard hydrogel adhesives that combine high stretchability, toughness, tissue adhesion, and antimicrobial function. "The advanced adhesive material – stickier than what is found in conventional wound dressings – is activated when exposed to body heat. They also contain silver nanoparticles, which have antimicrobial properties, to further boost healing.
In both pig and mouse skin, dressings have been shown to close wounds much faster than traditional bandages, while reducing the time it took them to heal. They also appeared to cause no inflammation or immune system response, indicating their safety on living tissue. And in a computer model created by the team, the dressings were projected to have a similar wound-closing effect on the human skin as they did on the mouse, suggesting they would be just as effective
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The team expects these dressings to be used not only for nasty cuts and scrapes, but more difficult to treat skin injuries like ulcers, and design could be
"This technology has the potential to be used not only for skin injuries, but also for chronic wounds such as diabetic ulcers and pressure sores, for drug delivery, and as components of soft robotics-based therapies, "Study author David Mooney, and bioengineer at Harvard's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said in a release from the University.
Of course, successful animal experiments and computer simulations are not a guarantee that these dressings will work for people. So human trials are undoubtedly needed. The authors said they plan to study whether their invention can work well under a variety of medical scenarios and conditions, such as cold weather, which can affect the skin's temperature.