Researchers at Harvard University have come up with two new wound dressings that promote healing without relying on growth factors, cells, or even artificial scaffolds. Instead, natural proteins that are found in soy and human fetus cells are made to speed up the body’s natural healing processes, including performing tricks that only fetal tissue is capable of.
One dressing contains fibrous fibronectin, a protein that forms the extracellular matrix and keeps cells together that are forming into new tissues. It has been studied because of its role in scarless healing in the early development of fetuses, but manufacturing it has been difficult. The Harvard researchers, hoping to develop dressings that would help with battlefield wounds, used a device called Rotary Jet-Spinning to create fibrous fibronectin and then make it into large dressings and bandages.
The fibrous fibronectin works to guide growth by attracting the desired cells that are involved in the healing process. The material is then absorbed by the body. According to a Harvard announcement, in in vivo tests, the dressing made of fibrous fibronectin demonstrated “84 percent tissue restoration within 20 days, compared with 55.6 percent restoration in wounds treated with a standard dressing.” Additionally, the wounds healed with the help of the new bandage had a nearly normal thickness of the skin, its structure was healthy, and it even sprouted new hair.
The second dressing involves a soy-based nanofiber that has estrogen-like molecules and other bioactive molecules that help to generate and promote cellular growth. Estrogen has been noted as helping pregnant women heal wounds faster. The soy nanofiber is spun in the same machine that fibrous fibronectin was produced and it had similar results. According to Harvard, the new dressing “demonstrated a 72 percent increase in healing over wounds with no dressing and a 21 percent increase in healing over wounds dressed without soy protein.”
Image: A tissue section 14 days post-wounding shows hair follicles regenerating at center of the wound. Regrowing hair follicles is one of the biggest challenges in the field of wound healing. Image courtesy of the Disease Biophysics Group/Harvard University
Study in Advanced Healthcare Materials: Soy Protein/Cellulose Nanofiber Scaffolds Mimicking Skin Extracellular Matrix for Enhanced Wound Healing…