Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have developed a hydrogel that might help to grow healthy, scar-free tissue. The hydrogel is a water-based, three-dimensional framework of polymers created by researchers from JHU’s Whiting School of Engineering and Bayview Medical Center Burn Center. The results of early experiments with mouse tissue, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are looking quite promising.
The experiment showed that the hydrogel treatment promotes the development of new blood vessels and the regeneration of complex layers of skin, including hair follicles and the glands that produce skin oil. The hydrogel is easy to manufacture and could lead to better, inexpensive burn wound treatments. The hydrogel does not contain any drugs or biological components to make it work, making it easier to get approved for use on human patients.
Lead author Guoming Sun has been working with the hydrogels, searching for ways to improve angiogenesis. The hydrogel allows tissue regeneration and blood vessel formation to occur very quickly, which lowers the chance for scarring.
The researchers don’t fully understand yet how the hydrogel works. The original intention was to add growth factors, but surprisingly the hydrogel itself worked well, even in the absence of the growth factors. The plan is to further develop and fine-tune the material for use in other skin conditions, such as skin ulcers.
Press statement by Hopkins: In Third-Degree Burn Treatment, Hydrogel Helps Grow New, Scar-Free Skin