October 2021

A New, Inexpensive Way to Heal Chronic Wounds

The transparent wound dressing is shown against a white background (above) and on a simulated wound (below). Photograph courtesy of MSU.

A Michigan State University (MSU) researcher is leading an international team of scientists to develop a low-cost, practical biopolymer dressing that helps heal chronic wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs).

To develop that new technology, Morteza Mahmoudi, PhD, an assistant professor in the MSU College of Human Medicine and the Precision Health Program, drew on a wealth of experience in developing new materials for biomedical applications. The team started with a flexible framework of natural polymer nanofibers, including collagen. The framework provides a 3D scaffold that fosters cell migration and the development of new blood vessels, essentially replicating the function of the extracellular matrix, the natural support system found in healthy, living tissue.

“It’s important that the physical and mechanical properties of the dressing are really close to that of skin,” Mahmoudi said. “In order to heal, the new cells have to feel like they’re at home.”

To that framework, the team can incorporate proteins, peptides, and nanoparticles that not only spur the growth of new cells and blood vessels but also fight off bacteria by encouraging a patient’s own immune system to join the charge. The dressing also degrades over time, meaning that nobody would have to change or remove it and potentially aggravate the wound site. And at roughly $20 each, Mahmoudi believes that the dressings—if and when approved by regulatory agencies—will be affordable to even resource-strapped healthcare systems faced with treating these serious wounds.

Moreover, preliminary trials show the dressing to be highly effective: Working with his collaborators, Mahmoudi conducted a small pilot trial of the wound dressing with 13 patients with chronic wounds, all of whom were cured, he said.

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