Synthetic hydrogel shows promise in wound healing

Mar 21, 2016, 4:00am

Researchers report that tests in healthy mice show that use of a unique gel closes wounds faster and with more normal tissue within one week. Learn more.

Researchers have developed a synthetic hydrogel that shows promise as a treatment to quicken wound healing and regenerate normal skin tissue.

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The product has only been tested in mice, and there’s no way to know if it will work in people. Still, researchers are hopeful, and they’re pursuing studies in larger animals.

“We believe that we have only scratched the surface in regards to what the technology can do. We are currently investigating its effectiveness in regenerating functional tissue for a range of tissues outside of skin,” says study co-author Westbrook Weaver Ph.D., an adjunct researcher with the department of bioengineering at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Engineering.

At issue: Improving wound treatment.

“There are many naturally sourced products out there that can accelerate wound healing, but because they are so expensive, their use is limited to chronic non-healing wounds, many of which require multiple applications of the product before full healing occurs,” says study co-author Philip Scumpia, M.D., Ph.D., clinical instructor of Dermatology and Dermatopathology at the UCLA Division of Dermatology.

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Hydrogels are one possible treatment since they can chemically and physically match soft tissue, says study lead author Donald Griffin, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow with the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the UCLA School of Engineering.

“Unfortunately, their clinical adoption has been limited by the inability of current hydrogel technologies to integrate well with soft tissue, particularly along the hydrogel/tissue interface, often resulting in inflammation rejection via a foreign body response,” he says.

The researchers developed a hydrogel formulated with microporous annealed particles that adhere to each other. The gel is unique, Dr. Griffin says, because it’s “micro-porous while still being flowable.”

NEXT: Study results

 

In a study published June 1, 2015, in the journal Nature Materials, the researchers report on their tests in healthy mice with full thickness excisional wounds sutured in order to heal in a similar way to human wounds. The results: “Wounds close faster and with more normal tissue including mature blood vessels, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands within 1 week,” study co-author Dr. Weaver says.

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Research has continued since the study was published. “We have now also performed these experiments in diabetic mice that have decreased capacity to heal,” Dr. Scumpia says.  “We have also used the gel to heal incisional wounds and to evaluate tensile strength of tissue after the wounds heal. This data will be presented at the Symposium of Advanced Wound Care meeting in April.”

The researchers hope to bring an FDA-approved product to the market within five years. “Because the material is entirely synthetic with no cells or growth factors in its current form,” Weaver says, “it can offer a low cost, effective, and side effect-free solution for skin regeneration in the future.”

Disclosures: The researchers have formed a company to commercialize the hydrogel.